A growing number of physicians are beginning to sound warnings about the long term effects of radiation from full body scanners used by the TSA and other agencies. And many physicians are now choosing pat downs rather than submitting risking such exposure.
Dr. Dong Kim, the neurosurgeon who treated U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when she was shot in the head in January 2011 by a crazed gunman in Tucson, says such scanners simply are not safe. Kim, the chair of the department of neurosurgery at the University of Texas Medical School, said, “There is really no absolutely safe dose of radiation. Each exposure is additive, and there is no need to incur any extra radiation when there is an alternative.”
Kim will not allow the TSA to irradiate him but instead always opts for the individual pat down when passing through airport security. He isn’t alone. Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, also opts out of the x-ray, due to concerns that the machines may not be properly calibrated and inspected in a proper manner.
According to the Alliance for Natural Health, scanners emit x-ray signals that “skim the entire surface of your skin instead of being directed to a localized area of your body, which means that radiation levels could be 10 to 20 times higher than the manufacturer’s calculations.” The low-level ionizing radiation emitted can also cause skin cancer.
ProPublica, a not-for-profit investigative journalist group, filed a report in November 2011 citing similar health concerns from noted radiation safety experts who had gathered in Maryland to evaluate a backscatter machine called Secure 1000.Many within that group said the way the machine functions appears to violate a primary rule governing radiation safety: Humans should not be x-rayed unless there is some proven medical benefit.
“I am concerned … with expanding this type of product for the traveling public,” Stanley Savic, the vice president for safety at a large electronics company, said. “I think that would take this thing to an entirely different level of public health risk.”
Steven W. Smith, the machine’s inventor, sought to relieve the panelists’ concerns by assuring them he did not believe his machine would see widespread use in the United States. At the time, he told them, only about 20 were in use around the country.
“The places I think you are not going to see these in the next five years is lower-security facilities, particularly power plants, embassies, courthouses, airports and governments,” he said. “I would be extremely surprised in the next five to ten years if the Secure 1000 is sold to any of these.”
That statement was made less than a year ago which of course has proven to be totally inaccurate. Today, the U.S. government has begun sends millions of travelers through the backscatter machines, in spite of warnings from radiation safety experts.