Airport Body Scan Radiation Concerns UCSF Researchers

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — The public outcry over those new and revealing full body scans at the nation’s airports seems to have died down. But even though passengers may not be thinking about them, some scientists are voicing new concerns.

Over the holidays, some airline passengers were enraged about new security procedures, including screeners who can see images of their body parts. But what about what you can’t see?

“It concerns me a great deal,” said UCSF Professor Robert Stroud. At his biophysics lab Professor Stroud has been analyzing data on the new so-called backscatter body scanners. They emit very low level X-rays that bounce off a person’s body, allowing screeners to see through clothes.

The manufacturer, Rapiscan, claims they are safe, and compliant with all U.S. regulations and standards. But Stroud said, “We simply don’t know enough about low intensity radiation.”

Stroud said the low intensity radiation appears to mostly concentrate in the skin. “Skin is where a lot of this particular radiation probably will be most damaging,” he said.

He believes eyes could also be sensitive to any kind of radiation. “If you have typically 3 head X-rays for example you increase your risk of cataracts significantly,” Stroud said. “I would imagine in time we will all be presented with some type of glasses.”

Stroud and three other UCSF colleagues wrote a letter to the White House. The White House wrote back, saying “we are confident that full body X-ray security products and practices do not pose a significant risk to the public health.”

But the scientists at UCSF believe what is being offered up as scientific proof of the body scanners’ safety is not convincing.

A recent study was commissioned by the feds and carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. “The document is heavily redacted,” said Stroud. “Also there are no names on the document.”

Stroud also said vital information is missing. “Never in this document for example is the X-ray current for the actual machine listed.”

He also said another problem was the way the test was conducted. “The scientists from Johns Hopkins were not presented with a machine to investigate in their labs, rather they were invited to witness experiments carried out by the manufacturers in their own lab,” Stroud said.

Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Sarah Horowitz said sections of the study were blacked out for a reason. “Obviously there are studies that contain security sensitive information,” Horowitz said.

Bottom line, Horowitz said, the study proves the scanners are safe. “We have worked with federal agencies and third parties including universities and they have convinced us of the safety of the technology,” said Horowitz. “There is minuscule amount of radiation being emitted by the scanners.”

A spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins said its study is being misinterpreted, stating in an email to CBS5: “The laboratory’s expertise is systems engineering, not how something affects the human body. So it would be outside of our expertise to say whether or not a radiation level is safe.”

It’s one more reason to make Professor Stroud doubt. “I do think it’s time for an independent investigation,” he said.

The TSA recently agreed to exempt all airline flight crew from the full body scanners. But more and more passengers are going through 247 machines at 38 U.S. airports at last count.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments

One Comment

  1. beezie says:

    Pure and simple, they are deadly, mammograms are deadly….. Don’t let others lead you to believe they are safe

    1. Amanda Ramos says:

      WHO IS SAFE IN THIS WORLD CONTAMINATED????? EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE JUST THAT AIR IS WORSE THAN ANY RADIATION EXPOSURE SOMETIMES. SHOULD LOOK ME. I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER LAST YEAR, HAD BILATERAL MASTECTOMY , CHEMOTHERAPY AND 28 TREAMENTS OF RADIATIONS. SAVED MY LIFE AND I WONDER IF I’AM WITHIN MY BODY INSIDE LIKE THAT AIRPORT PICTURES, BECAUSE MY SKIN LOOK LIKE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN, HAMBURGER O STEAK WELL WELL DONE.

  2. X. Ray says:

    Any amount of radiation, including “minuscule amount of radiation” may trigger cell mutation leading to cancer.
    Beware of “science” serving big business and politicians.

  3. X.Ray says:

    Any amount of radiation including “minuscule amount of radiation” may trigger cell mutation leading to cancer.

  4. CRB says:

    Whenever I see a statement that something has been “proven,” I question the entire paper. Science teaches us that nothing can be proven, but only disproven. When something is failed to be disproven, that is as close to proving something as we can get. Repeated failures at disproving something is often interpreted as being a “proof,” which it is not. But nevermind my understanding of a scientific “proof” just ask any university science professor.

  5. TSA Agent says:

    OMG…this hot chick was high beaming me when I was scanning her at the security entrance. Nice landing strip too! I just love this new full body scan.

  6. katy k says:

    Apparently all the TSA employees are still next to thousand of air travellers (1.5 millions in fact, assuming 80% will take the scan instead of a good patting down) are fearless warriors for homeland security. With all the nice radiation exposure on the DAILY basis, if I were a TSA employee, I would wear a plate under my uniform. Better yet, don’t forget the head gear.

  7. carter says:

    TSA lied when they said gamma exposure at altitude was the same as the body scan. Gamma is naturally occuring, X-Rays are man made. These people are hiding significant findings. I want the exposure we receive listed in measurable units. And who trains these Apes to use this equipment? Are they certified as RAD Techs?… They should be.

  8. cancer says:

    Yes, tsa workers are exposed to these machines 8 hours a day. No lead suits. Wait til the tsa agents start being dianosed with cancer at abnormally high rates. Then they won’t be able to hide behind “it’s safe cause we said so” defense.

  9. Tom Bowman says:

    I have Alpha Burns on my legs already. I have them covered for Dental X-Rays.
    Why does TSA object to passengers who would PREFER to strip ??? It has to be brutal for frequent travellers.
    Simple and potentially better solution: allow anyone to apply for ‘TSA Background chack’ (something like many States do for CCW permits), then issue ‘TSA-Approved ID’ perhaps with chip for validation. Then at airports, let folks with prior TSA Approval zip thru airport security (perhaps scan the carry on bags, perhaps not). Crew and frequent flyers should not have to suffer repeated exposure (also, do TSA workers have ‘shielded workplace’ or are they also exposed to the ‘harmless’ radiation every day ?

  10. Greg Wolf says:

    You know our government told us that cigarettes were good for us. Asbestos wont hurt you. Lead pant is the best pant there is. Agent orange saves lives. The underwear was for real. There are some BAD people out there that want to hurt us. WE need to walk thought then Scanners. It’s just a little radiation. Scanners don’t cause Can…cer.
    Just saying that sounds like a lot of them Weapons Of Mass Destruction to me.
    The American Cancer Society says Radiation has a vary small but real effect, and the fact that radiation exposure from all sources can add up over one’s lifetime, imaging tests that use radiation should only be done for a good reason
    TSA workers stand next to the machine. They don’t know better they get as much radiation as you do. BUT they stand there all day long. Day after day It’s not about IF they are going to get Cancer but when. As for me I just don’t need no more Radiation

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