Health officials: Radioactive plume poses no threat to U.S. - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Health officials: Radioactive plume poses no threat to California

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By News 8 Reporter Richard Allyn

(CBS 8) - As computer models suggest the radioactive plume from the damaged Japanese plant could reach Southern California as early as Friday, health officials in the U.S. are doing their best to put rising fears to rest.

The experts say there is no need for concern at this point, as any radiation coming from Japan will have been diluted as it travels more than 5000 miles across the ocean, posing no radiologic threat to the United States.

"Basic physics and basic science tells us that there really can't be any harm to anyone here in the United States, Hawaii or any of the other territories," said Gregory Jackzo, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But despite strong reassurances from nuclear experts, concerns are mounting over reports that radiation released from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan will reach Southern California by Friday.

"It takes a certain amount of time to cross the Pacific Ocean, and tomorrow some if it, if there is a dispersion, some of it is going to reach California," said Dr. Menas Kafatos of Chapman University.

But experts say any radiation carried the 5,500 miles across the Pacific would be highly diluted - and insignificant - by the time it reaches us.

It's a point President Obama underscored Thursday.

"I want to be very clear," he said, "We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or the U.S. territories in the Pacific."

"It is the distance and the dilution, frankly," said Dr. Eric McDonald of the county's Health and Human Services Agency.

The county is working closely with state and federal agencies that are constantly monitoring radiation levels here at home and throughout the country, he added.

"We are in daily contact with them about what they are detecting," Dr. McDonald added.

At this point, air quality officials say no increased radiation levels have been detected. Doctor McDonald also cautions concerned Californians not to take those potassium iodide tablets, used to protect the body from significant exposure to radioiodine.

"There is absolutely no need to be going out to purchase , or certainly not taking, potassium iodide," he said. Despite warnings that potassium iodide can create serious side effects, we've seen a run on these pills on the West Coast.

Dr. McDonald says a better idea is to take the money you're planning to spend on potassium iodide and put it towards an emergency preparedness kit for an earthquake.

The Environmental Protection Agency is posting daily updates on its web site as it continually monitors radiation levels throughout the country.

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