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Radiation levels normal in California, officials say

'We have not detected any increases beyond what you'd expect historically. Nothing you can attribute to Japan,' says Philip Fine of the South Coast Air Quality Management District in Southern California.

March 18, 2011|By Rong-Gong Lin II, Times Staff Writer

Radiation levels in California remain normal, air quality officials said Friday morning.

"As far as our monitors go, we have not detected any increases beyond what you'd expect historically. Nothing you can attribute to Japan," said Philip Fine, atmospheric measurements manager of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the smog control agency for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Fine said he has been spot-checking radiation monitor data throughout California and the West Coast in the past few days, and nothing abnormal has shown up.

Other experts have said they do expect small amounts of radioactive isotopes from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi power plant to blow over to California as soon as Friday, but that they expected that the radiation would be well within safe limits.

The Associated Press, quoting an unnamed diplomat in Vienna, had reported earlier Friday that radioactive fallout from the crippled Japanese nuclear reactors had reached Southern California but that readings were far below levels that could pose a health hazard.

Fine said he was unable to verify the Associated Press' report, which was based on the diplomat's reading of radiation tracking by the United Nations' Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. The diplomat told the AP that initial readings are "about a billion times beneath levels that would be health-threatening."

"We haven't seen any data from them, so we can't confirm that report," Fine said.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has detectors in Anaheim, Fontana and Riverside monitoring airborne radiation; the California Department of Public Health operates a fourth detector in the downtown Los Angeles area.

The four are part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's radiation-detection network known as RadNet, which operates 24 hours a day.

The system was developed in the 1950s during the Cold War. "The purpose is basically to monitor the general population's exposure to radiation, regardless of source," Fine said.

Q&A: Worries about radiation outweigh threats in U.S.

Officials on Thursday said whatever radiation that wafts into the atmosphere will be greatly diluted by the time it travels 5,000 miles to California.

"The basic physics and basic science really tells us that there can't be any risk or harm to anyone here in the United States, or Hawaii, or any of the other [U.S.] territories," Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Thursday.

ron.lin@latimes.com

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