By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
Security officials increasingly rely on full-body scanners to screen passengers, but could those machines pose a cancer risk to airline customers?
That’s the word from several overseas media outlets this week, all of which report on a possible cancer risk from such machines.
The Daily Mail of London writes “experts say radiation from the scanners has been underestimated and could be particularly risky for children. They say that the low level beam does deliver a small dose of radiation to the body but because the beam concentrates on the skin — one of the most radiation-sensitive organs of the human body — that dose may be up to 20 times higher than first estimated.”
“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,” University of California biochemist David Agard is quoted as saying by Australia’s news.com.au. “Ionizing radiation such as the X-rays used in these scanners have the potential to induce chromosome damage, and that can lead to cancer,” he adds.
Dr. David Brenner, chief of the center for radiological research at New York’s Columbia University, tells the London Telegraph that while an individual’s risk is “very low,” the potentially large number of fliers going through full-body scanners could amplify that risk.