August 1, 2011
The science debate aside, what really stands out in this story is that the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA’s less than forthright dealing with this issue (and many others as well)
We don’t trust the DHS and for good reason!
By Rebecca Ruiz, Senior editor, msnbc.com
published July 13, 2011
Millions of fliers pass through them, but scientific experts are still at odds about the safety of full-body airport scanners that use an X-ray technology called backscatter. The machines use low-level beams to create an image of the body, revealing weapons or other concealed items beneath a passenger’s clothing.
The scanners emit very small doses of ionizing radiation, which is known to cause cellular changes in larger doses.
. . .To the average flier, the scientific debate and use of different technologies can be confusing. On one hand, humans are exposed to far more naturally occurring background radiation in one day than they receive from one trip through a backscatter scanner. But critics counter that we should limit unnecessary exposure to radiation, particularly when science offers little guidance on how to value cancer risks of low-dose radiation. No extensive studies have been successfully done on animals or humans to demonstrate the effect; at such limited exposure, it becomes impossible to single out a small dose of radiation as the cause of cancer compared to other possible explanations.
The debate recently became even more muddled. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy-rights organization, has accused the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that oversees the TSA, of concealing risks related to the use and operation of backscatter scanners. Among the group’s claims are that the scanners may be causing “cancer clusters” among security screeners and that the TSA has mischaracterized the type of testing the machines have undergone