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Still no radiation from Japan quake detected in Southern California, air officials say

March 18, 2011 |  8:19 pm

There's been no increase in radiation levels in Southern California's air since last week's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, local air quality control officials say.

Monitoring at several sites has not picked up any radiation above typical background levels, said Tina Cherry, a spokeswoman for the Air Quality Management District. AQMD is continuing to assess radiation levels on an hourly basis across Southern California.

Health officials in other parts of the state, and across the United States, are doing the same thing, she said. Updates can be found at www.aqmd.gov.

A minuscule amount of radiation from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan was detected in Sacramento but at such a low level that it posed no threat to human health, the environmental protection agency said Friday afternoon.

One station in Sacramento detected "minuscule quantities" of a radioactive isotope, xenon-133, that scientists said they believed came from the reactors at the Japanese plant.

But the level detected would result in a "dose rate approximately one-millionth of the dose rate that a person normally receives from rocks, bricks, the sun and other natural sources," according to an EPA statement.

Xenon-133 is a radioactive gas created during nuclear fission.

The detection of the xenon-133 came from a radiation monitoring system run by the U.S. Department of Energy able to "detect tiny quantities of radioisotopes that might indicate an underground nuclear test on the other side of the world," the statement said. "These detectors are extremely sensitive and can detect minute amounts of radioactive materials."

A separate detection system run by the EPA, known as RadNet, has also shown no harmful levels of radiation coming to the United States. The system was developed in the 1950s during the Cold War.

-- Catherine Saillant and Rong-Gong Lin II