Are airport X-ray scanners harmful?

by Volker Weber

While the risk of getting a fatal cancer from the screening is minuscule, it's about equal to the probability that an airplane will get blown up by a terrorist, he added. "So my view is there is not a case to be made for deploying them to prevent such a low probability event."

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If you don't mind my two cents, Discover Magazine has a better overall article:

I am concerned about the risk of skin cancer (esp. because I live at high altitude here, 7500'). For a healthy person, this type of x-ray scan would be little or no risk. We have a lot of people here with precancerous lesions from exposure to UV, and I have a feeling frequent exposure to x-rays via these scanners would cause an early, measurable increase in malignant skin cancers. And give our less-reputable papers endless amounts of "death by governmental bureaucracy" stories to run.

If you hit the final paragraphs of that article, you'll see that radio frequency millimeter-wave scanners would avoid all this, if they standardized on that technology. Irresponsible, really, to risk our health when a suitable equivalent exists (and is even in deployment).

The nude/prude issue will still fill the airwaves, however.

Note, emotions are running very high over this issue here in America, esp. for parents who have to allow their children to fly to school, summer camps, etc. etc. Noone wants to see their daughter's scan as an internet pin-up. I'm seeing verbal arguments pro/con all over Facebook.

Apparently [according to my brief five minute's research] the TSA's training runs about 40 hours, with 60 hours of on the job training. The question's being asked ... are these people really *qualified* to do this kind of thing? X-ray technicians in hospitals have to attend school for years, as a comparison. The nature of the job isn't equivalent, but the question of scanner calibration, respect for privacy, professionalism, etc. etc. is valid. I read that new technologies are being rolled out to already-trained technicians, and there are not enough resources or trained personnel to bring them up to speed on proper operation.

Garret P. Vreeland, 2010-11-18

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