Radiation hot line open for concerned Californians; health officials reassert that there's no risk expected
View Radiation fallout in a larger map
California Department of Public Health officials have opened a phone hot line to address concerns about local radiation exposure in the aftermath of a crisis at a Japanese nuclear power complex damaged in last week's earthquake and tsunami.
The action came as health officials seek to calm fears about potential fallout as Japanese nuclear experts struggle to contain the aftermath of fires, explosions and nuclear fuel-rod exposure at the six-reactor Fukushima power complex, about 150 miles north of Tokyo.
“What we’re being told is that there is no threat to California at this time,” said Mike Sicilia, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health. “It’s a matter of distance. Dangerous radioactivity could not cross the 5,0000 miles of the Pacific without petering out.”
Federal officials said there was a remote risk of radiation affecting livestock and food, although they stressed they did not consider it a major concern.
Sicilia said his office’s radioactive health branch has physicists who routinely test the food supply monthly for any sign of contamination.
Anyone with concerns may contact the department's hotline in English and Spanish at (916) 341-3947. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in Atlanta also has made a line available to anyone with questions at (800) CDC-INFO.
As of Tuesday, the state hotline had received more than 120 calls, Sicilia said, mostly people afraid of radiation exposure, many trying to buy potassium iodide pills.
“That’s very concerning to us because you really should not take that without professional advice,” he said, or “unless you are within the zone of the nuclear event,” the 12-mile radius surrounding Fukushima that has already been evacuated.
Potassium iodide poses a risk to pregnant and nursing women, those with thyroid problems, allergies to iodine and shellfish, Sicilia said.
“We are not recommending it. Don’t take it. It’s useless,” he said.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Map shows location of the Fukushima nuclear complex, as well as points in the U.S. Click on the points to learn more. Credit: Times reporting, Google