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Airport Backscatter Scanner Safety Concerns for Kids and Pregnant Women

Original post made by Diana on Dec 3, 2010

The backscatter full body scanners used at some airports emit x-rays absorbed by the body, mostly human skin. I thought the following information was interesting:

"Scientists, including a group of researchers at the University of California in San Francisco, have raised red flags and have questioned the quality of the safety guidelines TSA followed. Those guidelines were established by the American National Standards Institute, an organization whose members include companies that make the machines and the government agencies promoting them."

"While the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high," the scientists wrote in an April 6 letter.

"The risk of radiation emission to children and adolescents does not appear to have been fully evaluated," they said, and the "policy toward pregnant women needs to be defined."

Comments (7)

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Dec 4, 2010 at 1:17 pm

From a Feb. 2007 reference:

"The other issue besides privacy that has surrounded backscatter X-raying has to do with radiation exposure. Most of us do not get X-rayed on a regular basis; and when we do get X-rayed in a hospital or doctor's office, we've got a lead vest thrown over our vital organs. But at airports, there's no lead vest. So are people who travel a lot going to be subjected to dangerous levels of radiation if they get backscattered too often? Most experts say no. According to the Health Physics Society (HPS), a person undergoing a backscatter scan receives approximately 0.005 millirems (mrem, a unit of absorbed radiation). American Science and Engineering, Inc., actually puts that number slightly higher, in the area of .009 mrem. According to U.S. regulatory agencies, 1 mrem per year is a negligible dose of radiation, and 25 mrem per year from a single source is the upper limit of safe radiation exposure. Using the HPS numbers, it would take 200 backscatter scans in a year to reach a negligible dose -- 1 mrem -- of radiation. You receive 1 mrem from three hours on an airplane, from two days in Denver or from three days in Atlanta. And it would take 5,000 scans in a year to reach the upper limit of safety. A traveler would have to get 100 backscatter scans per week, every week, for a year, in order to be in real danger from the radiation. Few frequent flyers fly that frequently. "

Read the full article at:

Web Link


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

The bigger issue is being strip searched with x-rays as a condition of entering an airport security checkpoint. I would get arrested if I wanted to strip search you as a condition of entering my home.


Posted by Um..., a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Stacey,

As far as I know it is perfectly legal to strip search someone with his or her consent within the privacy of your home. This is California.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 4, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Hey, this isn't sex, unless you are suggesting that's what a TSA checkpoint is for.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Frank - I'm very confused, your post says that "25 mrem per year from a single source is the upper limit of safe radiation exposure." Yet, you say "You receive 1 mrem from three hours on an airplane, from two days in Denver or from three days in Atlanta."

So 25 mrem is safe, yet people in Denver receive over 182 mrem per year, just by living in Denver? Why isn't everyone in Denver dead? Should people from Denver and Atlanta really be exposed to all this additional radiation if they are already well past the "safe" limit?

This also means that anyone who spend at least 75 hours on a plane per year should nto have to go through these scanners.


Posted by Make politicians get full body scan, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Until we as taxpayers demand that our politicians (yes, that includes the Obama family) fly under the same conditions, nothing will change.

Obama and Clinton happily endorse this x-ray scans, because they get to use separate airplanes. For safety reasons, they should continue to do so, but before boarding, they MUST go through a full body scan. You will see how quickly rules change for the rest of Americans.


Posted by Stop Flying, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Easy solution - don't fly for anything other than business. I stopped flying in 2003, after security wanted my child to take off their braces and get out of their wheelchair and walk through the metal detector!! Why do you think my child's in a wheelchair - oh then they proceded to want me to lift my 80* child out of the wheelchair so they could pat my child down - I told them to do it, I couldn't lift ;). Add all the charges for baggage, food and tighter seats - forget it - no vacation is worth it for me. My spouse travels all over the world and US is the worst for security.


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