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Los Angeles County fire authorities warn residents of 'acid rain' e-mail hoax

March 19, 2011 | 10:51 am

The Los Angeles County Fire Department is advising residents to disregard a fraudulent e-mail issued in the name of the agency warning that radioactive particles released from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan could mix with rain and “cause burns, alopecia or even cancer.”

The Fire Department “has not issued this statement nor do we believe the statements within the e-mail to be factual,” Public Affairs Battalion Chief Jon O’Brien said in a statement Saturday.

Fire Department spokesman Inspector Matt Levesque said in a phone interview that his agency had no idea who sent the e-mail, which contained the heading “Acid Rain Precautions” and the Fire Department’s official logo.

The wife of an Orange County firefighter received the e-mail and brought it to the attention of fire officials, Levesque said.

Given the concern many people have about radiation, the fire department acted promptly in an effort to prevent the ruse from gaining momentum, Levesque said.

“We are trying to be ahead of the curve on this,” Levesque added. “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.”

Fire officials are advising residents seeking information on the potential effect of the release of radiation from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant to contact reputable sources such as the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, the California Department of Public Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

On Friday, Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding underscored that to date there was no increased risk of exposure to harmful levels of radiation in the U.S. due to the situation at the nuclear power complex in Japan.

“We want to reassure everyone that multiple agencies at the local, state and federal levels are working together to monitor this situation out of an abundance of caution," Fielding said.

-- Ann M. Simmons