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L.A. says it's prepared for radiation from Japan, though no problems are expected

March 18, 2011 |  3:35 pm

Rain While stressing that L.A. faces no health dangers, city officials said they are activating some emergency- and disaster-response protocols following the nuclear crisis in Japan.

The changes include having various departments on a heightened alert and activating the Mayor’s Emergency Response Council.

“Los Angeles has one of the most aggressive emergency management systems in place, with highly trained responders and one of the most prolific, state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Centers in the country,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a statement. “But as a city, we are always looking for ways to better prepare ourselves, so I have gathered these experts to discuss lessons learned from the disaster in Japan which we can apply here in Los Angeles.”

Los Angeles health officials said there was no increased radiation risk Friday due to releases at a nuclear power plant in Japan.

"We understand there is concern over the nuclear power complex situation in Japan, and 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," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, Los Angeles County's public health chief. "Our position has not changed: We still do not expect to see an increase in harmful levels of radiation in California."

In a Friday statement, his office noted that "plume models" forecasting the path of radiation do not track actual radiation levels but predict where radiation may be carried based on weather patterns.

"Given that more than 5,000 miles separate Southern California from Japan, any radiation from Japan is expected to disburse well before reaching the West Coast," the statement said. "The public should be reassured that L.A. County is equipped with highly sensitive, redundant monitoring systems capable of detecting any significant elevation in radiation levels."

Fielding reiterated earlier warnings against taking potassium iodide, or KI, to ward off radiation poisoning, noting that it is ineffective and could cause side effects.

Although usually benign, potassium iodide can prove harmful to people with allergies to iodine or shellfish, those with certain skin disorders, or those with thyroid problems. Possible side effects include nausea, intestinal upset, rashes, inflammation of the salivary glands and severe allergic reactions.

Health officials have urged residents to review information on potassium iodide and general earthquake and disaster readiness.


No increased radiation so far in Southern California

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Camp Pendleton Marines go to Japan to help relief drive

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Shelby Grad

Photo: Rainwater samples are collected on the roof of Etcheverry Hall at the University of California at Berkeley to check for radioactive particulates Friday, March 18, 2010, in Berkeley, Calif. Credit: Associated Press