US doctors question safety of airport scanners

<p>Every medical device has to be cleared by the FDA before it can be sold/used on humans. I have searched the FDA website and have yet to find a single study of the scanners' safety. Now a group of MDs questions the scanners' safety:</p>

<p>Travel</a> | Airport body scanners raise radiation concerns</p>

A group of doctors and professors from UC San Francisco are raising new concerns about the safety of a type of airport full-body scanner built by Torrance, Calif.-based Rapiscan Inc.</p>

<p>To reveal weapons hidden under a traveler's clothes, the scanner relies on "backscatter technology," which uses the ricochets from low-level X-rays to create what looks like a nude image of the person.</p>

<p>The experts said they fear that the scanners may expose the skin to high doses of X-rays that could increase the risk of cancer and other health problems, particularly among people with weak immune systems.</p>

<p>But officials at the Department of Homeland Security say there is no need to worry.</p>

<p>"The risk is so low it's almost negligible," said Dr. Alexander Garza, the assistant secretary for health affairs and chief medical officer for the department.


<p>Hmmm... Who will you trust?</p>

<p>I have wondered about his as well. My classes in radiation interactions showed that every "radiation" has some effect, most mostly benign compared to naturally occuring, but has this been tested? I find that the docs have a point in contrasting the use of scanning machines in airports to machines they use in practice. The scanners at airports have the potential to be used far more often than medical scanners. Many times machines/treatments have limits on how many times it can be used before violating some healthy threshold. Just something to think about.</p>

<p>We don't travel by air much, but avoid the walk through scan. This leaves you to a more hands on scan by a security employee, however I think it is worth it. I had to do this for many years with pregnancies back-2-back and simply got used to it. S2 has a metal bar in his chest that requires him to do this. Even with the ID bracelet and a 'wand' scan, they literally had him pull up his shirt and show the scars. I insist on being with him. At 16 I don't want someone that close to my son w/o a parent there. It just creeps me out.
It is more effort than the 'drive by' scan, however I just feel better about it.</p>

<p>So, if I am a CA survivor, I should avoid the intrusive walk-thru scan?</p>

<p>Being a cancer survivor per say doesn't make a difference, unless you happen to have been given radiation of the same exact kind as being used by scanner(s) - my understanding is there are 2 types. That is quite unlikely. </p>

<p>We all know that the sun's radiation is bad if we get too much over time - some people are affected more than others. We also know that other radiation is bad in even small amounts, but worse in larger amounts. </p>

<p>With these scanners, have the necessary tests been done to observe/understand the effects to the human body? I haven't heard either way. I hear that they are safe (by the companies promoting them), but not what kind of testing was done. And being that they are not medical devices, they do not have the scrutiny that medical devices do. That's my concern. Do they actually know the effect of this type of radiation and do they actually have an accurate measure of what the machines release per scan or are they estimates? How often are they calibrated?</p>

<p>I have read articles explaining a bit and if they work as explained, they probably are fine - but see the article below for my big concern: (it talks about CT scans being done poorly, but the same thing could happen if these airport machines are not maintained well - especially the low level x-ray scans - my least fav of the two types - the type being questioned by the docs in the above article)
Hospital's</a> CT scans use too much radiation | The Columbus Dispatch</p>

<p>It seems like a big inconvenience, for the small benefit we might get from it. My thoughts are that the would be bombers will now just transport the explosives the way drug smugglers do it now - internally. Are upper GI's and colonoscopies next?</p>