EPA Installs More Radiation Detectors On The West Coast

CBS San Francisco
CBC San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — While state and federal health officials are downplaying the risk of Japanese nuclear radiation to California, the US Environmental Protection Agency is deploying more electronic monitors to areas on the West Coast.

The Environmental Protection Agency already monitors radiation throughout the area as part of its RadNet system, which measures levels in air, drinking water, milk and rain.

California Dept. of Public Health > Radiation FAQs

The additional monitors are in response to the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, where emergency workers are attempting to cool overheated reactors damaged by last week's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

One of the monitors already sits atop a building in downtown San Francisco. It's on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's roof, and it is one of 124 already tied into the EPA providing real-time radiation monitoring.

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While federal officials won't say how many more monitors are being installed or where they'll be going, it did acknowledge that it is stepping up surveillance.

Eric Stevenson is the director of technical services for the Air Quality Management District. He said there is always what's referred to as "background radiation" in the air.

View the video report on everyday radiation exposure.

"For example there are ultra-violet rays, that's considered radiation," said Stevenson. "There are also microwaves, radio waves are considered radiation. The radiation we're particularly interested in is what's known as alpha-radiation, and to some extent, gamma-radiation."

American Nuclear Society > Radiation Dosage Chart

Given the 5,000 mile separation between the West Coast and Japan, he echoes what health officials have been saying about the minimal risk of exposure, saying it would be very difficult for dangerous materials to get high enough into the jet stream to make it across the Pacific.