Airport Security Full-Body X-ray & Millimeter Wave Screening Systems
Health Risks and Doctors Letters on Radiation Risks
The two types of scanners used in airports are full body millimeter radiation scanners and backscatter X ray scanners.When full-body X-ray Screening Systems were introduced for airport security, many doctors raised health concerns about the radiation exposure. After years of debate, these x-ray screening systems are now being replaced with millimeter wave systems. Please see below the letters and health concerns raised in regards to the screening systems.
Note: Due to these health issues, many newer millimeter wave systems use non-ionizing radiation. However safety is NOT assured with these systems. Millimeter waves are the same frequencies to be used in 5G technology. Millimeter waves are used in military weapons. Learn more here.
In April 2010, when screening using X- ray technology was in use, scientists at the University of California – San Francisco wrote to President Obama, calling for an independent review of the full body scanners’ radiation risks. The experts noted that children, pregnant women, and the elderly are especially at risk “from the mutagenic effects of the [body scanners’] X-rays.”2010 letter of concern airport body scanners
A Pat Down Search
According to the EPA on it’s webpage Radiation and Airport Security Scanning “if you are worried about x-ray or millimeter wave screening, ask for a pat-down search instead.” A pat down search is the safe solution: it will get you through security without radiation exposure.
Safety is Not Assured
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sought the release of documents regarding radiation risks posed by airport full body scanners via FOIAs and FOIA appeals. EPIC obtained documents indicating that federal agencies have mischaracterized the findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and that a Johns Hopkins University study revealed that radiation zones around body scanners could exceed the “General Public Dose Limit.” Read more at EPIC here.
In this 2010 letter the FDA states that the amount of ionizing radiation would be a justified “miniscule amount.” It is notable that that the FDA admits that it is ionizing radiation, which is known to be carcinogenic. The FDA bases their evaluation on industry friendly NCRP’s allowable dose.
In response to concerns that independent safety data “do not exist”the FDA responded that “independent measurements have been made on various versions of this product and all results are consistent with the dose specified by the manufacturer.”
In 2011, Doctors responded to the with a letter “There is still no rigorous hard data for the safety of Xray Airport passenger scanners” stating:
“The problem remains that the safety of the X-ray airport scanners has not been independently verified… the Johns Hopkins report, which is the more detailed and significant because it refers to the widely deployed Single Pose system, does not hold to critical principles of scientific reporting… There is no way to repeat any of these measurements… The tests were performed by the manufacturer using the manufacturer’s questionable test procedures… The independent testing of the safety of these specific scanners has not been rigorous nor has it been held to the standards usually associated with new devices”.
…It is still unclear how much damage to cells occur with low dose x-rays. One of the most important points in the ‘Red Flags’ section of our letter of April 2010 was that potential x-ray damage, primarily to skin cells and adjacent tissues, would lead to a ‘damage response’ by the cells.
A Safer Alternative
Many people choose to opt out of these machines and get a pat down instead. Be aware that you need to go to the airport much earlier as this can take extra time and sometimes you might need to go to a back room for a more intensive screening.
TSA Admits Bungling of Airport Body-Scanner Radiation Tests, David Kravets, Wired, Mar. 15, 2011.
Airport body scanners ‘could give you cancer’, warns expert, Daily Mail (UK), June 30, 2010.