Mayor Tries to Calm Fears Over Radiation - NBC Southern California

Mayor Tries to Calm Fears Over Radiation

A minuscule amount of radioactive fallout from Japan's damaged nuclear reactors reached California



    Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, along with the heads of city and county public safety departments, sought to calm fears about the region's readiness for a major disaster and concerns about elevated radiation in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis.

    Villaraigosa issued five directives aimed at making the city's emergency response more efficient. He called for the establishment of an Emergency Response Council, which he said will allow him to quickly activate only those city departments needed for a specific type of crisis.

    He also announced the city's participation in a Federal Emergency Management Agency pilot program that will embed a FEMA representative in the city's emergency management team.

    No Harmful Radiation Reaches California

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    No harmful levels of radiation have reached Southern California, with monitors detecting nothing beyond normal background levels of radiation, health and environmental officials said.

    According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, three radiation monitors in Southern California have detected no increases in radiation beyond the normal background levels.

    Information from those monitors is relayed automatically to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which announced today that there have been no concern-raising levels of radiation detected anywhere in the United States.

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    The EPA noted that a monitoring station in Sacramento detected "miniscule quantities" of the radioactive isotope xenon-133 that were consistent with release from the damaged Fukushima reactor in Japan. The level of the isotope detected was "approximately one-millionth of the dose rate that a person normally receives from rocks, bricks, the sun and other natural background sources."

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    Radiation Detectors Monitor Levels Along Coast

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    Earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deployed extra radiation detectors throughout the country to monitor radiation amounts. The radiation stations will send real time data via satellite to EPA officials, who will make the data available to the public online. The monitors also contain two types of air filters that detect any radioactive particles and are mailed to EPA's data center in Alabama.

    You also can check the South Coast Air Quality Management District's website for updates.

    On Thursday, air quality regulators in Southern California said they have not detected increased levels of radiation.

    "So far there's nothing out of the ordinary,'' said Sam Atwood of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

    The agency is continuing to monitor radiation levels at its three stations every hour.

    The Path of Radioactive Material

    Austria's Federal Ministry for Science and Research released a map showing radioactive material from the disaster in Japan moving across the Pacific Ocean toward California.

    Click to Enlarge | Click for Radiation Levels | Find a Personal Radiation Detector

    Residents, Authorities Take Precautions

    A week's worth of reassurances from scientists hasn't been enough to convince everyone. In Van Nuys, some customers were looking for iodide tablets and even radiation suits at SOS Survival Products.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Customs officials were stepping up the monitoring of radiation levels on flights from Japan to LAX and other airports.

    According to the LA Times, "out of an abundance of caution" customs workers were using several types of radiation detection equipment to specifically monitor maritime and air traffic from Japan for possible contamination.

    In the unlikely event that the situation escalates, the California Emergency Management Agency would coordinate emergency response efforts with state public health officials and local officials.

    "Worst-case scenario, there is no threat to public health in California,'' said the agency's acting secretary Mike Dayton.

    The California Department of Public Health, which set up a hotline for concerned residents, also has its own network of 8 monitors sampling the air, water, and soil for harmful substances, including radiation, said agency spokesman Ron Owens.