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Congressman Raises Concerns About Backscatter X-Ray Scanners At Nation’s Airports

NEW YORK, NYLong Island Congressman, Steve Israel is addressing growing concerns about the potential danger of radiation exposure due to full body scanners used in many airports. Congressman Israel has called on the Transportation Security Administration to conduct an independent investigation into possible health risks caused by Backscatter X-ray scanners.

“I have a high regard for the TSA, but I also know that when government says ‘trust us and we don’t have to open this up to more scrutiny,’ you should open it up to more scrutiny,” said Israel. He went on to cite records from last year that show there have been almost 4000 mechanical malfunctions with the Backscatters. In spite of these numerous problems, radiation safety surveys were conducted on only 2 percent of the machines.

“What happens if the scan pauses for a moment and concentrates on one specific area?” Rep. Israel asked. He says that he isn’t trying to spread fear but only wants answers to safety concerns about the radiation. “We do have an obligation to make sure that our security is safe and that people know that it’s safe.”

A doctor from North Shore-LIJ Health System agreed with Rep. Israel that there needs to be more research about the safety of Backscatter X-ray scanners. Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, board certified in environmental medicine, questioned the lack of information available, “Have we thoroughly looked at the safety considerations here? Until we get better studies to answer these questions, the questions will linger … The dose here used is quite low, far lower than even an X-ray. And it’s important to reinforce the idea that this isn’t about creating fear or health concerns existing right now.”

Passengers are reportedly hesitant about the Backscatters, telling one reporter on Tuesday that they would “prefer to avoid them,” and that they often feel like “lambs” forced to go through them and wondering “who monitors the amount of radiation that is coming through?”

Congressman Israel offered safety advice for some groups: “Particularly if you’re a pregnant woman or if you have children, you need to know that you don’t have to go through the Backscatter. You can ask for some alternatives.”

The congressman said there are nearly 250 of these full-body scanners at 37 airports nationwide.

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