Feds Say They’ll Study Safety Of Airport Full Body Scanners Yet Again

Image from a back-scatter scanner

Image from a back-scatter scanner

If you’re one to eye those full-body scanners warily at the airport, wondering what kind of stuff is zipping and zapping around your organs, you’re not the only one. The Department of Homeland Security is responding to critics who question the safety of the instruments by launching another study to check out the devices used by the Transportation Security Administration.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the honor of doing so will go to the National Academy of Sciences, which will review previous studies on the safety of the scanners. It won’t conduct any news tests or studies it seems, just pore over the facts from earlier conclusions.

One of the critics, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, says she’s glad the new review will be taking place. She introduced a bill this year to test the safety of those scanners.

“While TSA has told the public that the amount of radiation emitted from these machines is small, passengers and some scientific experts have raised questions about the impact of repeated exposure to this radiation,” she said.

The scanners that are more troubling to critics are the back-scatter scanners that use X-rays to see through clothing, as opposed to those that use non-ionizing radio frequency energy, or millimeter waves.

The TSA maintains that earlier studies have shown the scanners are totally safe and passengers won’t get zapped full of dangerous radiation, even if they’re the kind of travelers who fly often.

To soothe the concerns still remaining in many critics, the National Academy of Science’s contract will have it checking into whether backscatter scanners comply with health standards, and if the TSA has the right procedures in place to prevent overexposure to radiation to anyone who is near the devices, including workers.

If you’re wondering what kind of full-body scanner is used at your airport, check out Pro Publica’s handy searchable database.

Previously: TSA Taking Controversial X-Ray Scanners Out Of Big Airports And Shipping Them Off To Smaller Ones

Feds call for new safety review of airport scanners [Los Angeles Times]