King County health agency addresses radiation concerns

March 16, 2011

By Staff

NEW — 9 a.m. March 16, 2011

Experts at the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state Department of Health do not expect significant levels of radioactivity in Washington or any health risk from the crisis at earthquake- and tsunami-damaged nuclear reactors in Japan.

Federal and state agencies continue to monitor radiation levels in the air and rain water as a precaution.

Public Health – Seattle & King County has posted frequently asked questions and responses about the nuclear crisis.

“We don’t know what will happen in Japan, but the state Department of Health has determined that even in the event of a significant release from the reactor, radiation should be diluted before reaching our state,” a statement from the agency reads.

In another step, King County Executive Dow Constantine is allowing King County employees to convert personal accrued leave time into a cash donation to the American Red Cross for disaster-relief efforts in Japan.

“Like most of you, I have been taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the devastation in Japan,” he said in a statement Tuesday after issuing the executive order. “As more images of the destruction and stories of human misery are revealed, many of our employees have expressed their desire to help our neighbors on the other side of the Pacific. This program is just one way in which King County employees can give back to the global community and help those in need.”

Under the order, county employees can convert up to 40 hours of vacation or compensatory time into a cash donation to the Red Cross. Employees have 45 days to complete a form and have a contribution deducted through the payroll system.

The county enacted a similar program after a devastating earthquake in Haiti last January. Then, county employees donated more than 5,500 accrued hours — or almost $200,000 — to aid group Global Impact.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the people of Japan and all those, here and around the world, who have been affected by this tragedy,” Constantine said. “The generous and caring employees of King County stand with people of Japan as they deal with this unprecedented emergency.”

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