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]