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Japan nuclear crisis: California radiation risk still low, authorities say

Radiation in Southern California's air remains low, officials say. Also, the Los Angeles County Fire Department says an e-mail predicting acid rain is a hoax.

March 19, 2011|By Ann Simmons and Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times

Environmental officials reassured residents Saturday that radiation in Southern California's air remained below levels of concern as workers in Japan struggled to contain releases from a stricken nuclear power plant.

Los Angeles County Fire Department officials also sought to debunk an e-mail hoax that predicted acid rain would result from Japan's nuclear accident.

The fraudulent e-mail was issued in the fire agency's name and claimed that radioactive particles released in Japan could mix with rain and "cause burns, alopecia or even cancer."

Photos: Unrelenting crisis grips Japan

The department issued a statement on Saturday telling residents that it "has not issued this statement, nor do we believe the statements within the e-mail to be factual." Officials said they had no idea who sent the e-mail, which bore the heading "Acid Rain Precautions" and used the Fire Department's official logo.

The wife of an Orange County firefighter received the e-mail and took it to the attention of officials. Given the concern many people have about radiation, the department acted promptly to prevent the ruse from gaining momentum, Fire Department Inspector Matt Levesque said.

"We are trying to be ahead of the curve on this," Levesque said. "We believe it's best to make sure people don't take a glance [at the e-mail] and start calling people all over the country."

The Environmental Protection Agency has been providing daily updates on its website. On Saturday morning, the EPA reported that its nationwide radiation monitoring system, RadNet, which continually monitors the nation's air, drinking water, milk and precipitation for environmental radiation, showed typical fluctuations in background radiation levels.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the smog control agency for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, said there was no increase in radiation levels. On Saturday morning, district spokeswoman Tina Cherry said radiation levels had not changed. "There's no increase of risk detected through the monitor," Cherry said.

The agency 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.

Photos: Unrelenting crisis grips Japan

The four detectors are part of the EPA's radiation detection network, which operates 24 hours a day. The system was developed in the 1950s during the Cold War.

ann.simmons@latimes.com

ruben.vives@latimes.com

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