Scientists question safety of airport full body scanners

As soon as the underpants bomber was caught, the US department of Homeland Security started a rapid deployment of full body scanning equipment. These new scanners can see under clothes, and are designed to check for bombs or other suspicious items.

The technology is by no means new, and the Transportation Security Administrations has been using similar technology for years, but only on a very limited basis. Since the first of these machines made it to an airport, the TSA has been very vocal about telling the traveling public that they are 100% safe, and that we have nothing to worry about.

Except for the risk of too much exposure to ionizing radiation that is…

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco are disputing the claims that the machines are safe – and have presented their own research on the effects of the radiation from a trip through a whole body scanner.

According to the researchers, the calculated amount of radiation was based upon an average over the whole body – but the number that actually gets deposited in your skin may be higher – though they don’t know by how much.

Rapiscan, who build the majority of the machines being installed around the nation refused to comment on the findings, but the TSA repeated that travelers would need to go through the machines thousands of times just to reach the radiation levels you receive when you get a chest X-ray.

David Brenner, head of Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research also aired his concerns – “There really is no other technology around where we’re planning to X-ray such an enormous number of individuals. It’s really unprecedented in the radiation world”.

I’m not sure about you – but those findings don’t sit too well with me. I’m obviously not against technologies that can prevent terrorism, but there are limits to what the traveling public should be subjected to. When the scanners were first tested, their purpose was for secondary scanning procedures, not for mass scans of every passenger.


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