As the nuclear crisis in Japan continues, a number of emails and text messages have started to circulate which claim that people are at risk of acid rain as a result of the radiation leak. The messages warn that people in affected areas should not go out in the rain, or should use protection to avoid developing Alopecia or other hair loss conditions.
These claims have been circulating in a number of places around the world, but have been dispelled as a hoax by authorities.
Email claims Alopecia acid rain link
In Los Angeles and the surrounding area, an email headed ‘Acid Rain Precautions’ was circulating, claiming that radioactive particles from Japan’s nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant could mix with rain that would fall locally, and cause, “burns, Alopecia or even cancer.” The email was accompanied by the emblem of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
However, the LA Fire Department was quick to dismiss the email as a hoax. In a statement made to the LA Times, a spokesman said that the fire department, “has not issued this statement nor do we believe the statements within the email to be factual.”
Pakistan hair loss hoax
In Pakistan, meanwhile, a text message was circulating stating: “There was a nuclear blast [at] 4:30pm [on] Sunday in Fukushima, Japan. If it rains today or in the next few days, do not go out in the rain. If you get caught [in the rain] use an umbrella or a rain coat even if it is only a drizzle. Radioactive particles which may cause Alopecia or even cancer may [sic].”
In response to this, the Director General of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, Arif Mahmood, said, “There are no chances of radiation in Japan affecting people here … Between December and April we receive the westerly wave while Japan is in the north east, so it cannot possibly affect us.”
“If it has not affected countries around Japan, how will it affect us?” he went on to tell The Express Tribune.
Does acid rain cause hair loss?
Another major fallacy in the hoax emails is that acid rain can be caused by nuclear fallout. Acid rain is not caused by radiation, it is predominantly a result of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted by factories, vehicles and conventional fossil fuel fired power stations.
Acid rain is also not linked to any significant effects on human health, and there is no evidence it causes hair loss. It does however a detrimental impact on aquatic wildlife, soils, forests, and can cause erosion.
Sustained exposure to radioactive particles on the other hand can cause Alopecia as well as a range of other harmful conditions, including cancer, but experts have said that any radiation released as a result of the situation at Fukushima is localised around the immediate area. Japanese authorities have set up a 12 mile exclusion zone around the nuclear plant, while residents living within 18 miles have been advised to either leave the area or stay indoors.
Nearby food and water supplies have been revealed to contain levels of radioactive iodine exceeding legal limits, but Yukio Edano, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, has said that this still would not pose a significant health hazard.