Study: Airport Security Full-Body Scanners Won’t Zap You With Dangerous Radiation

If you’re imagining your organs being zapped through with invisible rays of unhealthy radiation while standing in an airport security full-body scanner, well, stop that. A new independent study into the devices used by the Transportation Security Administration found that they do not expose passengers to dangerous levels of radiation.

The study by the Marquette University College of engineering is believed to be the first independent review of the scanners, reports the Chicago Tribune. It found that radiation from the backscatter scanners passes beyond the subject’s skin and reaches 29 different organs, but that the levels of radiation are much lower than other X-ray proceduers.

The TSA has also submitted the scanners for testing by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the U.S. Army Public Health Command. All of those tests have shown that the scanners aren’t putting passengers at risk, but critics are still calling for more independent studies.

The Marquette study isn’t based on testing of the actual machines, but its conclusions were based on scanner radiation data released publicly by the TSA. The study’s author ran those numbers through simulation software that modeled how X-ray photons travel through a body. It estimated that scanners expose passengers to less than a third of the maximum recommended dose of 0.25 micro sieverts.

There are already some doubters of this study, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who says the study is in doubt because it used TSA data.

“We do not truly know the risk of this radiation exposure over multiple screenings, for frequent fliers, those in vulnerable groups, or TSA’s own employees operating the machines,” she said in a statement.

TSA scanners pose negligible risk to passengers, new test shows [Chicago Tribune]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Marlin says:

    Yea if you take the data of the group that has the most to lose then your “study” is already flawed.

    Kinda like CR does not release any data on their automotive “studies” so they are also worthless; yet many still use them to defend their fanboy car beliefs.

    • snarkymcfarkle says:

      I work in a major academic medical center, where there are full-time medical physicists whose job is to ensure the safe and consistent delivery of both diagnostic and therapeutic radiation.

      And guess what? They screw it up sometimes.

      While their primary job is quality assurance, there are rare instances where the equipment malfunctions and they do not detect it, or they calibrate the machine incorrectly.

      What hope do we have that the TSA performs careful quality assurance on their machines on a regular basis? Do they have medical physicists on staff?

      Oh wait: that’s classified. “For security reasons.”

  2. DJ Charlie says:

    “The Marquette study isn’t based on testing of the actual machines…”

    Then it’s unfounded, and a waste of time and effort.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      Exactly. Most of the concerns I have are about the unsafe operation of these devices in the field by the TSOs, who consistently fail to follow their own procedures. There are documented cases of licensed radiologists administering dangerous doses due to operator error, but I would feel much more comfortable if the operation was at least monitored by a health professional specializing in radiology.

    • Sarek says:

      What! Perform an actual scientific test??!! We should all just trust that the TSA gave Marquette valid, accurate data. The government would never lie to us.

      /sarcasm off

      So why the Hades would Marquette even bother to make a study when they had no valid data??

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      You know that this is incredibly common, right? You don’t need to start with primary sources every time?

      • spamtasticus says:

        Baywatch was once the most popular show in the world. Common does not mean good or correct.

  3. Kredal says:

    Of course it’s safe! The TSA said so… and here’s their cooked data to prove it! Study the actual machine? No way, that thing gives off way too much radiation to hook up in our lab.

  4. SpiffWilkie says:

    “but that the levels of radiation are much lower than other X-ray proceduers.”

    I don’t recall ever going through any other x-ray procedures at the airport.
    “Here, take this pill. It has much less poison than arsenic.”

    (Full disclosure, I don’t really care whether or not I go through the body scanners.)

  5. Tim says:

    Okay, seriously. If you’re starting to doubt the validity of this study because it’s based on TSA data, you’re officially entering conspiracy theory territory.

    What you are alleging is this: a government agency deliberately released falsified information about its operations in order to convince people, incorrectly, that the devices are safe, when in fact they are unsafe. This agency knew that an independent study would find the real data to be dangerous, so it specifically falsified the data in such a way that it would bring about the exact results they wanted. If true, this would be such a serious lie as to warrant impeaching the president, a la Richard Nixon.

    When you start denying the scientific process, you might as well say the earth is flat, 6,000 years old and zebras are horses that got too close to freshly-painted fences.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      No, some of us are saying the study design is flawed. I don’t know what field you’re in, but a study in such artificial circumstances wouldn’t pass most IRBs that I know of.

      tl;dr version: They didn’t test the real-world operation of the devices.

    • pinteresque says:

      sorry? the “real scientific process” would be to study a machine as it would be deployed and with settings as used in the field and to base your conclusions on that, or at the very least to use data, the methodology of which is understood and trustworthy.

      Assuming the data you’re given is accurate or useful to the specific methodology you’re using is idiotic.

    • Kathlene says:

      Well, Tim, at the very least it’s fair to say that the study is not “independent” because of it’s reliance on TSA data; therefore it is potentially biased, and not terribly useful.

    • FatLynn says:

      We’re not saying that the TSA went and made up fake data. We’re saying that you can’t take data from a lab and say that it applies to the real world.

      Much of the concern from the scientific community has to do with the performance of the machines over time, with untrained operators, and an unknown calibration schedule.

      • Jawaka says:

        I know that I’m ignorant about the process but I always assumed that these Xray machines just ran and that the employees there were just monitoring what they saw pass through them. I wasn’t aware that a trained technician needed to control the machines,

    • Jane_Gage says:

      There wasn’t an impeachment after the Tuskegee experiment. Besides, there is no safe dose of radiation and it’s all cumulative.

    • calicopaisley says:

      ‘Deliberately falsified’? Oh dear, I think you’re the one overreacting now, sorry.
      Hanlon’s razor: “Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.”

      I don’t doubt the scientfic process — done right. I AM a skeptic and want to see the scientific process done _correctly_.

      It is not conspiracy theory to want to see more independant studies. That’s good science, and moreover, completely reasonable.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      To quote Johnathan “ChaosD1″ Burkhardt:

      “Science doesn’t work that way!”

    • MrEvil says:

      Nixon wasn’t impeached. Nixon resigned the presidency before any formal charges were brought against him, Gerald Ford then pardoned Nixon.

      Only two presidents have been impeached in the history of the United States, Andrew Johnson, and Bill Clinton. Both times it was more politically motivated. Andrew Johnson because of his leniency towards the south during reconstruction; Bill Clinton for lying about getting head from a White House intern. In both cases neither president was removed from office by the senate.

    • Forbidden says:

      There does not need to be any massive conspiracy here. This is what happens:

      1) Company that wants to sell scanning machine runs tests in optimum laboratory conditions with the machines calibrated and operated by trained radiologists who probably had a hand in designing and building them.

      2) Company gives the data to TSA, TSA takes the data at face value.

      3) TSA gives data to independent auditor.

      4) Auditor looks at data and says “Yeah, that looks good”

      The problem is that the machines aren’t been operated by highly trained radiologists. They’re being run by people who have absolutely no training in radiology whatsoever, and barely any training in even operating the machine. So the machines don’t get calibrated properly, nor operated properly. People end up standing in them too long and get overexposed, or the devices end up set on too high a power level, or the local TSA jock turns up the dial to make sure to catch him some ‘terrists’ or too look at boobies.

      No one is lying, but in the end, checking the data that the company put out without testing a machine that’s actually in place is rather pointless.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        You are wrong if you think the operators have any control over the power these machines put out. I worked on a xray scanner for packages for my company. For actual scanning, our control panel had two buttons. Scan and stop. That was it. The other buttons on our panel allowed us to review the last 5-6 belt lengths of scans(after that, the new scans pushed out the old scans), zoom in on the image, and change the image coloring to highlight things. I also spent a long time talking to the state inspector who inspected out machine when it was installed, while he sketched out the room and took readings while the machine ran. I must say that while i was nervous initially working with the machine, his explication of how it worked and what safety systems are installed made me feel a lot better, and really cleared up the illusion I had of what these machines can really do. Movies, TV, and cartoons make them seem a lot more dangerous and fun than they really are.

        • pamelad says:

          Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, a really neat thing to do while your Mom took you shopping for new shoes was to have the salesman fit you using a “fluoroscope.” It was an X-ray device, and almost nobody knew back then that it was a very bad idea to have kids looking at their foot bones and giggling at their wriggling toes for minutes at a time using the device’s foot X-ray and viewer. At the time, shoe stores, scientists and doctors just didn’t know about the hazards. The devices were removed for safety reasons in the mid 1960s.

          A few months ago, it was revealed that brain scans can cause burns to some peoples’ hair and scalps because the devices were not set properly by the equipment manufacturers or radiologists. At this time, who knows what these excessively high radiation levels have done to the patients’ brains or even other organs? They still don’t know.

          So, we are supposed to trust the TSA to know what’s really going on with their scanners, especially when the so-called study is not independent, when TSA apparently has no radiologists on site, and when the agents (thank goodness) have no control or (regretfully) no monitoring of the radiation levels? What will be discovered next? What do contemporary scientists know about radiation? Much more than the 1950s, but still probably not everything.

  6. Cat says:

    You all need to watch “A Snowmobile for George” to get a glimpse of what the government has done to regulations and the science – http://www.asnowmobileforgeorge.com/

    It’s on Netflix. Go. NOW.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      Oooh thanks, I’ve added it to the top of my queue….although I don’t even have to see it to know the story. I have a family member who works for the National Parks Service, so I remember hearing a lot about it as it was happening.

  7. FatLynn says:

    The TSA union rep in Boston is claiming that there is an elevated risk of cancer among agents who operate the machines.

    http://healthland.time.com/2011/06/30/did-airport-scanners-give-boston-tsa-agents-cancer/

    The TSA blog lists it as a “myth”.

  8. TerraSin says:

    And remember, Chesterfield cigarettes are good for you!

  9. Blueskylaw says:

    “A new independent study into the devices used by the Transportation Security Administration
    found that they do not expose passengers to dangerous levels of radiation.”

    Is it even possible to have an independent study anymore? An independent study also said that breathing the air around New York City right after 9/11 was safe. I take all these studies with 1000 grains of salt (which an independent study also said was good for you).

  10. physics2010 says:

    Oh…safe, just like dental x-rays and CT scanners. We’ll just ignore all of the recent studies suggesting that likelihood of cancer is increased (significantly) when exposed to those sources at a young age.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Except you are exposed to more radiation flying than from the scanners. You get radiation watching TV. Radiation eating bananas. Radiation living in a brick building. Radiation handling kitteh litter. Comparing a TV to an X ray machine or a CT scanner is a misleading tactic, and shows you can’t back up your argument except by exaggerating/lying.

      • AndroidHumanoid says:

        And comparing a tv to an x-ray scanner is just wrong, two totally different x-rays we are dealing with! Ionizing vs non-ionizing.

  11. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    “The Marquette study isn’t based on testing of the actual machines, but its conclusions were based on scanner radiation data released publicly by the TSA.”

    So it’s not a ‘study’, then. It’s parroting what the TSA has already claimed about the machines, and therefore this whole thing is a giant pile of bullshit PR.

    Fuck a whole bowl of these people.

  12. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Yay, we’re back!

    If they’re not testing the actual machines, but only relying on the data provided by the TSA, then I don’t trust the study and I’m still not going through the scanner. It’s still shooting radiation all over me. Yes, I know I get some on the plane, but why add to it?

  13. wackydan says:

    I fly every week.. .Can someone please do a study on impact to frequent flyers please?

  14. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    This frustrates me on multiple levels. I’ve seen countless talk shows where the TSA blindly defends these machines, claiming that they are safe. To see that an “independent study” relies on TSA’s own “testing” data is stupid beyond measure.

    The question is not whether these machines are safe during perfect lab-testing conditions. The question is whether they are safe when actually used in airports on the public.

    Also, to say that they are safe simply because they use “less radiation than other x-ray procedures” is inherently stupid. Other x-ray procedures require that they are performed by licensed x-ray technicians that have gone through medical training. There has been no such training for TSA “officers”.

    Other x-ray procedures are done because the potential benefit actually benefits the patient involved directly. I have nothing to gain from the TSA spying under my clothes. You can’t tell me that it makes us all safer, because it doesn’t. The only thing that has made us safer since 9/11 is that passengers no longer put up with any crap. “Sit down and do what the hijackers say” is no longer the thing to do.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      But there is a difference. When you get an X-ray/CT scan/medical imaging, the person operating the machine has control of the exposure/length of exposure you receive. That’s why they need training. But machines like the body scanners are preset so that the detector on the other side knows what to expect . The operator can’t “blast you” with radiation unless you stand there for minutes and they keep hitting the “scan” button. When I worked scanning packages, our machine ran the belt at a certain speed and the emitter could only produce so much radiation, else a breaker would trip.

      • AstroPig7 says:

        Do some reserach on the Therac-25, a therapeutic radiation device that caused several deaths in the 1980s. No amount of training can eliminate a software defect, and since the scanners we’re talking about were rushed through testing, there is no reason to believe they might not have a similar problem.

        (Note: If any additional testing has been performed on the scanners since their release, then I will modify my position accordingly.)

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          Except these don’t use software, they use hardware to produce the rays/beams. So there is the safety in the hardware being only designed to emit so many rays/beams with so much energy, because that is what the detectors/sensor on the other side needs. There is also safety in that monitoring voltage going into the device can be done by a mechanical switch, rather than a piece of software that can be adjusted.

          Think of it like your hair dryer. Do you worry about your hair dryer motor going crazy and burning your head to a crisp? No. There are circuit breakers on the power, but also the motor and heating elements are designed to use 120 volts and produce x amount of heat. They won’t all of a sudden decide to emit more energy with the same amount of input energy. There are also physical shut offs in most hair dryers that will cut the power to them should they get too hot as well. The same things are on machines like these scanners and the ones they use on your luggage.

          • AstroPig7 says:

            They don’t… wait, what? The software controls the hardware. That’s how every modern device of this nature works. The Therac-25’s flaw was a lack of hardware interlocks and poor software testing. The full-body scanners used by the TSA are supposed to have properly functioning interlocks to prevent excessive radiation, but some of these devices have been found to emit higher radiation than they should (as much as 10 times the expected level). Since this is ionizing radiation, the more dangerous kind, radiation levels above the expected maximum are quite worrisome.

            For a device of this nature, further testing should have been performed before it was put into action.

            Sources for the excessive radiation claim:
            http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_17614205
            http://www.abc4.com/content/news/state/story/Body-scanners-show-high-radiation-levels/FrvExvO8Z0yts2GAoV6Abw.cspx

  15. Fast Eddie Eats Bagels says:

    Yep, I’m the a-hole who declines the scan and asks for a pat down and get all the rolling eyes of the TSA when I travel for work.

  16. abelenky says:

    “are much lower than other X-ray proceduers.”

    What is a “proceduers”?

  17. Martha Gail says:

    So…the TSA did some tests that weren’t on the machines the TSA uses to prove that their machines are safe?

    Seems legit.

    /s

  18. Brontide says:

    There is no “safe” dose of ionizing radiation. All doses must be weighed against possible benefit.

  19. partofme says:

    There’s nothing quite like the enjoyment of a thread where non-scientists take a media-chewed report and debate whether or not it counts as science.

    Hint: Whether it answers the question you wanted it to answer is not a criterion for science.

    • ajv915 says:

      1 scientific findings on global warming = well it must be true
      10 scientific findings on TSA back scatter Technologies being safe = need more independent analysis

      • partofme says:

        There are a lot more findings on global warming. Of course, they could be doing the same thing as the study above… missing the point… but you can hardly say they’re not science. The most important problem is the utilization of science in public discourse. Unfortunately, we can’t even get to where we can discuss that question (and all the fun “is the right question being answered?” debates) if we can’t agree on what science is… and accept that it may not always answer the right question.

        • ajv915 says:

          I forgot the /s tag for sarcasm. I am well aware of the fact of the number of global warming studies completed (just to defend myself from sounding a fool).
          I was more tying to make the point that a lot of the science the media relays is often incomplete or some aggregated data to fit into a convenient package, yet a number of people use that information to make arguments. Typically the sets of data that point in a direction contrary to what they personally want it to say comes under the most scrutiny.

          • partofme says:

            I think you’re saying this. I agree with you. Most people (especially science media and politically-charged talking heads) don’t have any idea about what science is, how it works, or what its limitations are… and they never check assumptions. I spend an entire lecture in class focusing solely on the point, “Think in terms of assumptions, not equations.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work… even on future scientists.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Fun fact: An ‘independent’ study doesn’t use someone else’s test results.

      • partofme says:

        Fun fact: claiming something isn’t ‘independent’ is not the same as claiming that it’s not science.

        • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

          I personally made no such claim. But taking someone else’s figures at face value doesn’t sound very in-keeping with the spirit of Science, even if it is, strictly speaking, still science.

          • partofme says:

            What’s great about science is that it takes all types. One group measures aerodynamic characteristics of bats, another group assumes that the aerodynamics are reasonable (and that all the mathematicians took care to make sure their math works, lolz) and determines the control laws that are in the bat’s spinal cord… and another group assumes… oh, sorry.. talking about something different. The point is that each group is dependent upon the assumptions they make when they begin their specialized task.

            In this case, the Marquette group’s specialized task is to say, “Assuming that the radiation exposure looks like X, the effects to the body will look like Y.” This is science. This is the essence of science, directly in line with the spirit of science. The assumptions are stated. An established procedure is followed.

            Now, if you want to talk about, “taking someone else’s figures at face value,” then we’re entering the realm of public policy. You see, that’s the beauty of the role of if-then statements in science. If-then is the essence of science, as science has always assumed, “If you can reproduce some initial conditions, then the same result should follow.” Determining if-then is the singular role of the scientist. Determining whether the “if” part of the if-then is suitable for public policy is the role of the politician. Of course, the scientist should be mindful of the applicability of the assumptions (try to make them better if possible) and clearly state how they limit the applicability of the result (which I am sure this paper does), but we don’t all specialize in everything. I’m sure that the moment The Great TSA Data Hoax is unearthed, this same group will do the same science… and show an if-then that has more accurate assumptions.

            Science would grind to a halt if we couldn’t say, “Assuming the best I can assume, then X.”

            • Coleoptera Girl says:

              The TL;DR version: Science takes many different specialists to get done and each class of specialist has to assume that the other specialists are correct. Also, results need to be reproducible.

              I’m sure I missed something. Anyone care to fill in the gaps?

    • liam_cos says:

      I am not debating if it is good science, I am pointing out it is completely worthless in the debate on the safety of these machines.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      Don’t you mean “whether it gives the answer you wanted”? If the experiment does not answer the question you designed it to answer, then you did something wrong during the design phase.

      • partofme says:

        Emphatically, no. This is actually the crux of my entire point. Allow me to repeat my statements and clarify my pronouns:

        Whether it [a scientific report by someone else] answers the question you [someone not involved in the creation of the scientific report] wanted it to answer is not a criterion for science.

        I’m involved in the peer review process. Quite often, I’ll review papers that ask questions which I find ultimately useless. However, they state their assumptions, they follow an acceptable procedure to obtain their results, and they have not overstated their claims. Therefore, we will publish it (of course, we will try to publish things we deem “more important” or “more relevant” ahead of it).

        I have not seen this particular report (only the aforementioned “media-chewed” statements). However, in order for it to be accepted for publication in Medical Physics, I’m 100% certain that they stated their assumptions and the limitations those assumptions fix on the results. Whether or not you find those assumptions useful is emphatically not a criterion for science (there is a whole department here which all too often uses a large set of assumptions which I personally think makes their results useless… doesn’t make them not science).

        Of course, whether it gives the answer you wanted is also not a criterion for science… but my goal was to make the above point.

        • AstroPig7 says:

          In that case, I misread your original post. I was referring to the question asked by the experiment designer and not the question asked by a future reader of the results (whether raw, processed, or bastardized).

  20. aloria says:

    So, this study compares the devices’ safety with x-ray machines, but those aren’t safe if you’re getting one every other day. There’s a reason the dental hygenist steps out of the room to take your bitewing shots; frequent exposure to x-rays is bad news bears.

    How does this affect frequent fliers who would obviously be exposed to these scans more often than a casual flyer? How frequent is too much?

  21. mcgyver210 says:

    Hm I wonder how many grants they have received to publish such garbage?

    • ajv915 says:

      Wow, I didn’t know you had read the report from Marquette University. Could you please send me a link to the full PDF I am very interested in seeing their methodologies and procedures which they used to make these determinations.

      I just assume you have read a copy of the report to make a claim that it is complete Garbage.

      • mcgyver210 says:

        Anyone that remotely trust a corrupt government agency like the TSAs data as accurate enough for a study on safety is publishing Garbage IMO.

        I am not the only one that doesn’t trust TSA so don’t bother calling me any names.

  22. liam_cos says:

    “The Marquette study isn’t based on testing of the actual machines, but its conclusions were based on scanner radiation data released publicly by the TSA.”

    Too bad I don’t have this study on paper, at least then I could wipe my ass with it. As it stands it is completely useless.

  23. mmmwright says:

    They STILL don’t keep us safer from terrorists! This is STILL just security theater!

    • AstroPig7 says:

      Attacking security theatre from that angle has done nothing, so some critics have resorted to backing the health angle. Unfortunately, this approach may also prove useless. There must be a better way to go about eliminating this dead weight.

  24. Jawaka says:

    “All of those tests have shown that the scanners aren’t putting passengers at risk, but critics are still calling for more independent studies.”

    Of course they are, because it doesn’t support their claims.

  25. JF says:

    I don’t believe it.

  26. ned4spd8874 says:

    I will continue to opt-out of these death rays until multiple, truly independent studies show them to be safe. Using actual machines. Not simulations. I want real world testing and results.

    Oh, and I could be mistaken, but I thought some foreign countries are not using these because the evidence that they are safe is still not there?

    • Jeff Buske says:

      The pressure is on the EU to open the door to x-ray scanners. Using the same twisted exposure math as DHS-TSA the EU found the systems “safe” in a April 2012 report. Using x-rays for general security is just WRONG, and the practice should end. You are smart to avoid the machines, demand clean gloves.

  27. DriveByLurker says:

    1) TSA forbids its employees to wear dosimeters.

    2) TSA hasn’t published the calibration/inspection routine for the scanners.

    I’ll still be opting out, thank you very much.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      That’s because on machines like these, the dosing is so low, that wearing your dosimeter out in sunlight could cause it to give a false positive reading. I had similar ones when I worked on an xray machine. We had to wear it with the badge facing in on the front of our shirts to prevent it, but many times we still got one that would show up high because it would be exposed. We ended up keeping the spare one on the desk next to the machine so if that one also spiked, we had a problem.

      As for calibration/inspection, much like other machines, there are no user serviceable parts or any way to adjust the generator on these machines. They use a generator that produces the rays/beams when energized, and stops when not. There are interlocks in place that will shut off like a circuit breaker should too much voltage get to the generator to stop it from emitting too many rays/beams. So I am totally cool with inexperienced users NOT being able to mess with the machine, so I have trouble figuring out why you WANT THEM to be able to…

      • DriveByLurker says:

        It’s not that I want the smurf operating the machines to be adjusting them, it’s that I want someone competent and independent periodically testing them to be sure that they are still operating as intended.

        Johns Hopkins (who also wasn’t allowed to play with an actual scanner) concluded that modifications were needed to keep them from exceeding the “General Public Dose Limit”. Those modifications have not been made to date.
        http://epic.org/privacy/backscatter/radiation_hopkins.pdf

        The TSA has been stonewalling any attempts by outside experts to review data regarding the scanners
        http://epic.org/privacy/airtravel/backscatter/epic_v_dhs_radiation.html

        Most importantly, inmho, is that the TSA won’t release their calculations regarding the effective dose (their conversion from rem to sieverts) – given that the radiation exposure is allegedly highest in the surface of the body, those details are important to someone concerned about melanoma, or cataracts, or testicular cancer.

  28. do-it-myself says:

    “There are already some doubters of this study, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)”

    “including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)”

    “(R-Maine)”

    “R”

    She must be commended on being concerned for the well being of others!

  29. theotherwhitemeet says:

    Then why aren’t the TSA employees allowed to wear dosimeters?

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Because these machines emit so little radiation that just wearing your dosimeter in the sun, or taking it home if you live in a brick building will be enough to give them a false high reading. If the machines are physically incapable of producing the radiation needed to cause damage by such standards as OSHA, you do not need a dosimeter.

    • dush says:

      If a passenger wore one to the airport would TSA force them to remove it?

  30. dush says:

    Next week they discover Marquette is being paid off by the TSA and OSI.

  31. toadboy65 says:

    We also start with the assumption that the units used for the study were recently calibrated and in good repair. Once a unit has been put into service in a major airport, is used thousands of times, maybe never adjusted or calibrated, then possibly repaired by someone who may or may not be properly trained, will the radiation output change?

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      If these machines are like the x-ray machines I worked with, no. They don’t have a piece of radioactive material in them, they just have something that generates the waves/beams. When it’s energized, it produces a set amount for a set time. On our x-ray machine, the belt went at a certain speed, and the scanning area was very small. You couldn’t speed up the belt or slow it down, because the detector that captured the image was calibrated to receive a certain amount of energy, like when you set a camera up for a certain amount of light. If you go outside the set, the image appears off, which would cause you to call in the technician. And on these machines, you don’t try to fix them, because if the company thinks/knows you tampered, you void your warranty, and have to pay for repairs out of pocket, which makes no fiscal sense.

  32. Lt. Coke says:

    One of the fun things I like to note when politicians start talking about radiation is that among our population, congress members are among the most heavily exposed people there are. Being outside exposes you to radiation – being inside a building made of granite exposes you to gobs of it.

    It’s all still safe though – members of congress might be slightly more likely to get cancer, but the difference would be statistically insignificant. Whether or not these scanners are safe, people are going to have to get over the idea of ‘radiation’ always being bad, in any amount at all. As with almost all things but politics, moderation is key.

  33. AndroidHumanoid says:

    “Ionizing radiation is NOT safe at any level”. This is the first basic thing you learn in school for radiology. There is a reason why its a big deal for techs to be certified and trained yearly to operate x-ray, Catscan, fluoroscopy, and C-arm machines in the medical setting. They emit ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is cumulative. The more you receive, the worse it is for you. The facts- the larger you are, the more radiation it takes to penetrate your body. The most radiosensitive areas of the body are your eyes and thyroid. A fetus within the first trimester is the most radiosensitive because of the rapid growth of cells. Ionizing radiation *damages* these rapidly growing cells. TSA agents operating these x-ray scanners in the airport *should* wear dosimeters. Unless the scanner is enclosed in a wall that is a certain amount of thickness of lead, the ionizing radiation is going EVERYWHERE. I feel bad for the agents getting irradiated, and all the passengers getting irradiated standing next to it and in it.

  34. DriveByLurker says:

    The author of the study won’t let her own children go through the scanners … fifth paragraph from the bottom

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/11/travel/airport-scanners/index.html?hpt=tr_c2

  35. BamaGuy1024 says:

    I refuse to be a human test subject to placate the wildly unfounded fears of the TSA. Why why WHY do we not take a lesson from Israel and simply profile travelers and quickly interview everyone. The insane pat downs of elderly people in wheelchairs and especially of little children MUST STOP!

  36. Sad Sam says:

    Tests based on data provided by TSA is flawed. They need to actually test the machines and test them over time and for passengers of different size and weight.

  37. Fisher1949 says:

    This test is completely fraudulent and this story is blatant TSA propaganda at its worst. A sample size of one data set is too small to be statistically significant and the lack of proper scientific method would not pass a middle school science class.

    This is the same bogus test they tried to peddle in March, 2011 from Smith-Bindman and no one believed that one either. She was even criticized by members of her University and professional associations for falsifying the results.

    Further, the tests by NIST and APL did not say the scanners were safe, they concluded that the scanners met engineering criteria set by the manufacturer.

    In fact Dr. Michael Love at the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine doesn’t think the backscatter x-ray full body scanners are safe. He said “They [TSA] say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these [backscatter] x-rays.”

    Speaking to the press, Dr. Love went on to say, “No exposure to x-ray is considered beneficial. We know X-rays are hazardous, but we have a situation at the airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner.”

    A valid test will need to use real scanners needed to be randomly selected from operating scanners instead of flawed data provided by a manufacturer with a motive to influence the results.

    The fact that DHS/TSA made the data available to Marquette University confirms it is simply another attempt at a cover up in an effort to defy a Congressional mandate that the agency allow independent testing. The head of TSA agreed to testing six months ago and reneged. He should be held in contempt of Congress and jailed until EPIC, Rutherford or another third party organization that does not receive Federal or State funds conducts test of operating scanners.

    The Government also claimed Agent Orange was safe and there were “studies” that “proved” it. Now tens of thousands of veterans are dying of cancer caused by Agent Orange. This lie is costing veterans’ years of their life and taxpayers billions of dollars and the same will happen here.

    Someone should have been tried for capital treason for inflicting Agent Orange on our troops and the same applies to the scanners.

  38. Fisher1949 says:

    This test is completely fraudulent and this story is blatant TSA propaganda at its worst. A sample size of one data set is too small to be statistically significant and the lack of proper scientific method would not pass a middle school science class.

    This is the same bogus test they tried to peddle in March, 2011 from Smith-Bindman and no one believed that one either. She was even criticized by members of her University and professional associations for falsifying the results.

    Further, the tests by NIST and APL did not say the scanners were safe, they concluded that the scanners met engineering criteria set by the manufacturer.

    In fact Dr. Michael Love at the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine doesn’t think the backscatter x-ray full body scanners are safe. He said “They [TSA] say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these [backscatter] x-rays.”

    Speaking to the press, Dr. Love went on to say, “No exposure to x-ray is considered beneficial. We know X-rays are hazardous, but we have a situation at the airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner.”

    A valid test will need to use real scanners needed to be randomly selected from operating scanners instead of flawed data provided by a manufacturer with a motive to influence the results.

    The fact that DHS/TSA made the data available to Marquette University confirms it is simply another attempt at a cover up in an effort to defy a Congressional mandate that the agency allow independent testing. The head of TSA agreed to testing six months ago and reneged. He should be held in contempt of Congress and jailed until EPIC, Rutherford or another third party organization that does not receive Federal or State funds conducts test of operating scanners.

    The Government also claimed Agent Orange was safe and there were “studies” that “proved” it. Now tens of thousands of veterans are dying of cancer caused by Agent Orange. This lie is costing veterans’ years of their life and taxpayers billions of dollars and the same will happen here.

    Someone should have been tried for capital treason for inflicting Agent Orange on our troops and the same applies to the scanners.

  39. dilbert69 says:

    I am far more concerned about the health effects of the people who work around these machines 40 hours per week or more than I am about the health effects on me, an infrequent flyer, but I still opt out every time. The more people opt out, the more unworkable the system becomes, which IMNSHO is a good thing.

  40. Jeff Buske says:

    This was no “independent” study just took the bogus reading from a “trusted” source. Again good people take numbers from a heavily redacted report done with questionable measurements made on a non-production system. I must applaud the authors stating internal organs are exposed when the TSA assured the public the x-rays simply “bounced off the skin.”

    The Hopkins report with the names of the people conducting the test and critical measurements and calculations removed concluded all is “safe.” The “whole-body body dose” or effective dose calculations used don’t apply to lower energy (<50Kvp) x-rays used in backscatter systems. The effective dose model discounts the large skin exposure emphasizing internal organs. This makes the skin dose look smaller by a factor of about 20 to 100. As many aspects of the systems are "classified" changing the resolution and or scanning speed could change exposure by 4-16x. New forward systems being installed are finding kidney stones. Simply, the scanners are medical devices being operated without a prescription or medical benefit. With the cancer risk on equal to the potential security benefit no argument can be made to continue this radiation experiment. Learn more here, Jeff.

    http://​www.rockyflatsgear.com/​How-penetrating-are-airport​-back-scatter-x-rays.html