LIMERICK, Pa. (CBS) — In just the last four days, Montgomery County officials have handed out more than double the number of potassium iodide pills that they handed out in all of last year. 

The pills help protect the thyroid in case of a radiation leak from a nuclear plant. Montgomery County is home to the Limerick nuclear plant near Pottstown. 

As the crisis at a Japanese nuclear plant has worsened, calls to the county’s health center in Pottstown have increased. 

“It’s been very busy,” said Mike Baysinger, Montgomery County’s deputy director of personal health services. “We have been seeing more phone calls and more visits.”

To receive the pills, individuals must live or work within ten miles of the Limerick plant. That includes parts of Chester and Berks Counties. Doug and Connie Kratz of Gilbertsville stopped by the health center on Thursday to pick up pills for an elderly uncle who came to live with them last year. 

“I hadn’t really thought about it until this situation in Japan,” said Doug. “I thought we better have a pack for him.” 

“We’re not panicking, though” said Connie. 

“I think that it’s eye opening,” said Alana Cordisco, who works for the county but also picked up potassium iodide pills. “I think it’s good to be aware, but I don’t think people need to be too crazy about it yet.”

“It’s a teaching moment to allow the residents of Montgomery County to know that you should be prepared and you should have an emergency plan,” said Baysinger.  But he reminds those near the plant that the pills only help protect the thyroid against one type of radiation. They should only be used when necessary. 

“There will be instructions,” he said. “If you’re not told to do that, please don’t take these pills.”

Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3

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