As if the mass paranoia in Southern California over that fabled radiation cloud from Japan wasn't ridiculous enough, it appears some Los Angeles email scammers are doing their part to feed the fear.
Inspector Matt Levesque from the L.A. County Fire Department said it would be insensitive to forward us a copy of their original email, but he agreed to dictate the thing over the phone. As it turns out, the text is hilarious. (Why do we get all the shitty emails, while the rest of Los Angeles is spammed with this acid-rain gold?)
Here it is, word for word, albeit after a game of telephone:
"There was a nuclear blast 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Fukushima, Japan. If it rains today or in the next few days, do not go in the rain. If you get caught out, use an umbrella or raincoat. Even if it's only a drizzle, radioactive particles which may cause burns, alopecia or even cancer, may be if it rain. [Ed note: So... they don't speak English? Possible clue?]
BBC flash news: Japan government concerns radiation leak at Fukushima nuclear plants. Asian countries should take necessary precautions. If it rains, remain indoors first 24 hours. Close doors and window. Swab neck skin with Betadine, where a thyroid area is. Radiation hits thyroid first."
There is no signature, but the email is stamped at the top with the L.A. County Fire Department logo.
As silly as it seems, Levesque says we'd be surprised at how many people have been calling the station with radiation concerns -- at least 50 so far, including references to the scam.
Why the fire department, of all places? Levesque explains that firefighters "offer services that really cross emergency boundaries" (epic) and are "knowledgable in all areas." We'll keep that in mind.
Anyway, if you haven't caught on yet, there will be no acid involved in this weekend's rain forecast, and your thyroid should be just fine.
In the words of yesterday's press release:
"The County of Los Angeles Fire Department has not issued this statement nor do we believe the statements within the e-mail to be factual", says Public Affairs Battalion Chief Jon O'Brien. Residents within Los Angeles County seeking information on the potential impact from the release at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant are advised to obtain their information from a reputable agency. Additionally, individuals are reminded to use caution when viewing e-mails and to always verify the source of their information.
Sound advice, on many levels.