Any Californians worrying about radioactive fallout from the partial meltdown at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant need not worry, experts say. California air quality officials advised the public on Friday that the United States West Coast has experienced no increase in radiation levels due to the unfolding nuclear drama and radiation leakage across the Pacific.
San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management spokesman Ralph Borrmann said:
"At this point we're unable to verify if there are any elevated levels. We're not seeing it on our live data in California," adding that none of the other monitoring stations along the West Coast have registered an increase in radiation levels either.
State officials have simply verified a growing consensus among experts that California and the American West Coast are safe from the threat of radiation. On Thursday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that any radiation from Japan's damaged reactors should dissipate over the long distance of the Pacific ocean, so it did not expect any harmful amounts of radiation to reach the United States.
On an international level, officials at the U.N. nuclear agency are also trying to calm fears of any danger outside the immediate vicinity of the crippled nuclear reactors, where they've described the situation for the second day in a row as "worrying but stable". International Atomic Energy Agency officials have also joined U.S. nuclear experts in proclaiming that any radiation from Japan should dissipate so strongly "that it would pose no health risk whatsoever to residents" of California and other western states.
The U.N.'s Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, which monitors world radiation levels to ensure compliance with international nuclear policy, registered radiation levels at one station in California that are "about a billion times beneath levels that would be health threatening." At these levels, Californians would be exposed to more radiation by consuming a single banana than by exposure to the air this weekend.
So why the panic over radiation? James L. Payne at the Independent Institute gives two reasons:
"Many people make big bucks these days scaring you about what’s happening, or about to happen, in the world. The media folks top the list, obviously: the more frightened you are, the more of their content you watch.
There’s a second reason why media people exaggerate: the storyteller’s bias. When someone comes rushing back to the cave to tell about the saber-toothed tiger he just saw, the attention and adoration of his listeners depends on the size and ferocity of the tiger."
Residents of the Golden State can rest assured that the only thing toxic to their health is a media willing to profit from their anxiety by playing on their fears. Get out and enjoy the great weather this weekend, radiation and worry free. If you absolutely must take precautions against radiation, simply wear good sun block to shield your skin from ultraviolet rays and opt for a pat down instead of the body scanner next time you travel by plane.