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'No danger at this time,' California health officials have been reassured

March 14, 2011 |  7:20 pm

People queue to be screened by a technician in protective gear for signs of possible radiation in Nihonmatsu, northern Japan, March 14, 2011 Credit: Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

State health officials kept close watch Monday on potential radioactive releases at Japanese nuclear plants, making conference calls to local and federal officials every few hours, said Mike Sicilia, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health.

Sicilia said federal nuclear regulatory agencies have reassured state officials that the Japanese nuclear troubles do not pose an immediate danger to California.

“The Department of Public Health has radioactive monitoring for the water, food and the air,” Sicilia said. "We do have a plan of response and constant contact with our partners. From a health standpoint, we’re not concerned at this point.”

Jordan Scott, a spokesman for the California Emergency Management Agency, said nuclear experts also reassured officials in his office that, “there is no danger at this time.” Scott said they also have been told that, should a meltdown occur at one of Japan’s quake-damaged nuclear reactors, “it is highly unlikely that we would see any effects of it here.”

“Things would have to get kind of 'end of days' for us to see even a little bit of it here. We’re talking very extreme,” Scott said. “We’re just too far for anything to really reach us. A majority of the materials that would come out of there in a meltdown would dissipate” within miles, he said.

“That being said," Scott said, "we are doing our due diligence in monitoring the situation and making sure we have the most updated information.”

Some potassium iodide tablets and personal radiation detectors were selling out on Amazon.com Monday morning, with price hikes drawing angry accusations of gouging from commenters.

Scott said California residents should not just focus on preparing for a potential nuclear disaster, but on preparing for any of the natural disasters that routinely strike the state, from floods to wildfires and earthquakes. He recommended that people check out which disasters are common to where they live and prepare with earthquake kits, evacuation and reunification plans.

“It’s a big reminder to people that we are vulnerable to all sorts of disasters and we need to get prepared,” Scott said.


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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: People queue to be screened by a technician in protective gear for signs of possible radiation in Nihonmatsu, Japan on Tuesday. Credit: Yuriko Nakao / Reuters