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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 somersault (912633) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @12:47PM (#42326641) Homepage Journal

    Personally I don't care about that kind of "privacy". I'd say the time I stopped caring was around the time I lost my virginity. I do care about getting cancer though.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:04PM (#42326853)
    So a cell phone is 10,000 time more powerful. A TSA scan takes five seconds a few times a year. Many cellphone users have against their heads hours a day.
  • Re:Let me guess (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:10PM (#42326937)

    Says who? Do you have hard info on this type of radiation?

    I do. If you really want result "X" and you are willing to pay a lot of money to someone to produce a report that looks like they did something science-y that co-incidentally matches the conclusions you were looking for, and you make it perfectly clear they'll never get another penny from their sole source of research funding (the fedgov) then yeah, I think I can predict the result.

    Same thing as tobacco companies reporting their stuff is safe, or pretty much every pharmaceutical (coincidentally, most of them almost accidentally happen to be safe), etc etc. Even "x% of dentists prefer Y brand toothpaste".

    The only real question is how psuedo-science-y it'll be. Will they play the natl security card and not release any data other than "I've got a PHD, trust me" or will they take the different track of contracting out to a subsidiary of the machine mfgr, or will they have the good taste to at least distance themselves into hiring the CEO's brother in law, or will they go the bribery track and the guy who plays along gets a plum job at the mfgr "safety scientist" or some BS next year ... what exact form of corruption will they use is the only question, not will it be corrupt or not.

    The funniest part is the journalist filter is calling them x-ray scanners but I'm guessing the actual report is THz scanners. Xrays see thru things, THz sees thru things, therefore a dumbass would assume they must be the same.

  • by eviljav (68734) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:18PM (#42327039)

    Then, in the span of about 5 years, these scanners will have caused cancer in a greater number of people than the number of people killed by terrorists on 9/11/2001?

  • by blueg3 (192743) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:31PM (#42327241)

    There are problems with many of the arguments against the scanners.
    The medical danger should be a concern to everyone, but evidence suggests that the danger is negligible (though possibly nonzero).
    The privacy danger is patently obvious and verifiable (though sometimes overstated), but it's just not a concern to many.
    The cost-benefit argument has the problem that the "benefit" can be very difficult to accurately measure and the government may choose not to disclose data about whether the devices are beneficial. (This is, regardless, the argument I prefer.)

    That's not to say there are no problems with arguments for the scanners. At the very least (the very least), it makes sense to use the microwave scanners over the X-ray backscatter. The medical danger is known to be zero, which is even better than the backscatter's best-case of "is probably zero". Even if they're less effective, we don't seem to be relying on either system to be particularly effective.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:51PM (#42327521)

    As others have said, I'll believe that the cancer risk is hypothetical or neglegible, but ONLY if every scanner must go through the same rigorous requirements needed for any other medical x-ray machine to be certified.

    As it stands, they're built by the lowest bidder (or whoever happens to be related to someone high up in the TSA, which is possibly even worse, since they're likely corrupt as hell too). So while they're *supposed* to put out X amount of radiation, I'd like to know that it's literally an physical impossibility that it can ever put out 5X or 500X radiation due to cutting corners or poor design.

    Until those are done, I'll consider the cancer risk of those to potentially be the same as the Shoe-fitting fluoroscope [wikipedia.org]. Because seriously, who's telling me they're safe right now? The people that are extremely biased towards, and have the vast majority of their existence based on, the scanners being safe, after being built by the lowest common denominator.

To thine own self be true. (If not that, at least make some money.)

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