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TSA (Finally) Studying Health Effects of Body Scanners 225

Posted by timothy
from the different-kind-of-transparency dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A 2011 ProPublica series found that the TSA had glossed over the small cancer risk posed by its X-ray body scanners at airports across the country. While countries in Europe have long prohibited the scanners, the TSA is just now getting around to studying the health effects." I'm not worried; the posters and recorded announcements at the airport say these scanners raise no health concerns.
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TSA (Finally) Studying Health Effects of Body Scanners

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  • by jwinterm (2740003) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:01PM (#42326813)
    Hate to rain on your parade, but gamma rays and x-rays are both just photons. What do you mean they're not the same thing? They're exactly the same thing, they just originate from different parts of the atom.
  • by shentino (1139071) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:07PM (#42326895)

    Nuclear radiation IS electromagnetic radiation.

    That's what photons ARE, packets of electromagnetic impulses.

    Gamma rays just happen to have higher frequencies than microwaves or radio waves, but fundamentally they are both light.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:14PM (#42326989)

    cell = 0.0 uW/cm^2 of ionizing radiation.

  • Re:Capitalisim [sic] (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vainglorious Coward (267452) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:14PM (#42326997) Journal

    They're a cash grab for scanner makers, who are politically connected to the TSA.

    eg Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security secretary who shilled hard on the "need" to install full-body scanners, then later acknowledged that his consulting agency had a client that manufactured the machines. That is the kind of corruption one would expect in a third world tinpot dictatorship.

  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:22PM (#42327087)

    Frequency matters. I can sit in front of my IR heat dish and dump watts/cm^2 into my body and get no effect other than pleasant warmth. When you start talking about ionizing radiation, that is individual photons that are energetic enough to knock electrons off atoms, you get effects that you'll never see simply by dumping energy into a volume.

    I'm not bothering to look up what radiation these scanners use, merely pointing out that comparing watts is not what you want to be doing.

  • by jmauro (32523) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:50PM (#42327513)

    Yes and no. Only Gamma radiation is electromagnetic in nature. Alpha and Beta radiations are not photons at all, but atomic particles ejected with high energy. An Alpha particle is a helium atom without electrons and a Beta particle is free neutron.

    Depending on the radiation source you may get any of the radioactive emission types and all three are dangerous, but to differing degrees depending on volume and location of exposure.

  • by Shoten (260439) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:53PM (#42327543)

    Okay, there are two kinds of body scanners. One uses backscatter x-rays, the other uses millimeter-wave radio waves. The ones deployed at airports are the latter, not the former; x-rays are not being used to scan people in airports in the United States. So let's recognize that what the TSA is doing here is evaluating a kind of scanner that they have not deployed . In other words, they're making sure it's safe before they use it. Backscatter x-ray scanners are more commonly used to examine vehicles; they produce a 2-d image rather than the 3-d representation you get from a millimeter wave scanner, so they aren't nearly as good at detecting hidden objects under clothing.

    I hate the TSA at least as much as anyone else (I'm a frequent business traveler...so yeah...they are a huge pain in my ass between the security lines, the extra time needed, the restrictions on what I can carry, and the surly inspectors doing the "Uncle Touchy" routine), but facts are still facts, and in this case they haven't deployed first, tested later.

  • by Gordo_1 (256312) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @02:36PM (#42328107)

    Up until a couple months ago, there were *both* backscatter X-Ray machines and millimeter wave machines in use in US airports. The backscatter X-Ray machines WERE NOT properly tested and WERE deployed FIRST. They're undoing that mistake now by removing the backscatter machines (at least from the airport checkpoints I frequent.)

    I heard that the backscatter machines were being relegated to smaller airports, but I have no firsthand knowledge of that situation.

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