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TSA Agents Revolt Over Body Scanner Radiation Exposure

Last response: in News & Leisure
December 9, 2010 3:08:10 PM

Steve Watson
December 8, 2010

TSA workers are complaining about the amounts of radiation they are being exposed to on a daily basis in the wake of the mass introduction of body scanners to airports around the country.

USA Today reports that TSA agents are unhappy with the fact that they are being kept in the dark by their employers, despite repeated requests for information.

“We don’t think the agency is sharing enough information,” said Milly Rodriguez, occupational health and safety specialist at the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents TSA workers.

“Radiation just invokes a lot of fear.” she added.

According to the USA Today report, several TSA employees have expressed their concerns to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

…a TSA employee at an unidentified airport asked CDC in June to examine concerns about radiation exposures from standing near the new full-body X-ray scanners for hours a day. The CDC said it didn’t have authority to do a hazard assessment unless three or more current employees at one location made a joint request, according to a September letter from the CDC to the unnamed worker. The CDC provided the letter to USA TODAY.

Despite claiming that the body scanners and baggage scanners emit safe doses of radiation and are routinely inspected, the TSA has refused to release its radiation inspection records.

Worse still, an independent study by the CDC carried out in 2004, found that some baggage scanners were in violation of federal radiation standards, and were emitting two or three times beyond the agreed safe limit.

A further 2008 CDC report noted that some x-ray machines were missing protective lead curtains or had had safety features disabled by TSA employees with duct tape, paper towels and other materials.

Now there are even more x-ray devices in use, TSA workers’ concerns, as well as recent public backlash, is beginning to force the issue.

This has prompted members of congress to get involved, with a group led by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass, demanding that the TSA release the documents.

As the USA Today report explains, The TSA is responsible for inspecting the x-ray scanners itself, rather than the FDA, because they are not classed as medical devices.

Following the congressional attention, the TSA has said that it will attempt to release the radiation records to USA Today, but has not indicated when this will be, citing the need to review the records for security reasons.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the top Republican on a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee over federal workforce issues, has vowed to press the TSA for the documentation.

“It should send some flashing red lights when they won’t allow the public to review that data,” said Chaffetz, who oversaw the passage in the House last year of an amendment to ban “strip-search” imaging at airports.

“You don’t have to look at my wife and 8-year-old daughter naked to secure an airplane,” Chaffetz said at the time.

“You can actually see the sweat on somebody’s back. You can tell the difference between a dime and a nickel. If they can do that, they can see things that quite frankly I don’t think they should be looking at in order to secure a plane,” Chaffetz told the House.

Frankly, more TSA workers should be concerned over the levels of radiation they are being exposed to and are being asked to expose the public to.

Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at the Johns Hopkins school of medicine recently told AFP that “statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays”.

“…we have a situation at the airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner,” he added.

John Sedat, a University of California at San Francisco professor of biochemistry and biophysics and member of the National Academy of Sciences tells CNet that the machines have “mutagenic effects” and will increase the risk of cancer. Sedat previously sent a letter to the White House science Czar John P. Holdren, identifying the specific risk the machines pose to children and the elderly.

The letter stated:

“it appears that real independent safety data do not exist… There has not been sufficient review of the intermediate and long-term effects of radiation exposure associated with airport scanners. There is good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations.”

The TSA has repeatedly stated that going through the machines is equal to the radiation encountered during just two minutes of a flight. However, this does not take into account that the scanning machines specifically target only the skin and the muscle tissue immediately beneath.

The scanners are similar to C-Scans and fire ionizing radiation at those inside which penetrates a few centimeters into the flesh and reflects off the skin to form a naked body image.

The firing of ionizing radiation at the body effectively “unzips” DNA, according to scientific research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The research shows that even very low doses of X-ray can delay or prevent cellular repair of damaged DNA, yet pregnant women and children will be subjected to the process as new guidelines including scanners are adopted.

The Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety concluded in their report on the matter that governments must justify the use of the scanners and that a more accurate assessment of the health risks is needed.

Pregnant women and children should not be subject to scanning, according to the report, adding that governments should consider “other techniques to achieve the same end without the use of ionizing radiation.”

“The Committee cited the IAEA’s 1996 Basic Safety Standards agreement, drafted over three decades, that protects people from radiation. Frequent exposure to low doses of radiation can lead to cancer and birth defects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” reported Bloomberg.

Scientists at Columbia University also entered the debate recently, warning that the dose emitted by the naked x-ray devices could be up to 20 times higher than originally estimated, likely contributing to an increase in a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma which affects the head and neck.

“If all 800 million people who use airports every year were screened with X-rays then the very small individual risk multiplied by the large number of screened people might imply a potential public health or societal risk. The population risk has the potential to be significant,” said Dr David Brenner, head of Columbia University’s centre for radiological research.

Despite all these warnings, The Department of Homeland Security claims that the scanners are completely safe, pointing to “independent” verification from the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, both federal government bodies.
December 9, 2010 4:02:43 PM

X-ray is controlled as to the amount of radiation created, the speed and distance at which it travels and the application to the tip of pin. The people who are complaining about over exposure to radiation are getting more radiation exposure from the sun walking from their car into the airport.

No one has time to read this crap. And that is what it is. A waste of time and certainly crap.
December 9, 2010 4:06:34 PM

That is your opinion, unless you can back it up with a report on these machines you have carried out.

Related resources
December 9, 2010 4:32:28 PM

strangestranger said:
That is your opinion, unless you can back it up with a report on these machines you have carried out.

One thing is for sure. You don't have to worry about radiation exposure penetrating your head with that lead cranium of yours.
December 9, 2010 4:42:49 PM

strangestranger said:
That is your opinion, unless you can back it up with a report on these machines you have carried out.

I own x-ray machinery and have operated it for the past 25 years. I have taken tens of thousands of x-rays in my life. I take x-rays all day long for 25 years. My machines are tested regurily and not a hint of radiation can be detected when tested. Please believe me, I know how x-ray works. The exposure from a body scanner would not be measurable. Certainly not as much so as common sun exposure to the skin. It takes an immesurable amount of radiation to produce an x-ray in 2010. Sure in 1940 an x-ray tube was not filtered like today and scatter radiation was produced. I guess that is where your head is. You may not believe it, but I have a college degree. I'm a licensed x-ray technician. I know, you still say, "so what." That is what makes this a pointless conversation. If you have specific question related to what I have explained so far, please ask. We had a new x-ray tube installed last week.
December 9, 2010 5:10:13 PM

Our new x-ray tube made by Kodak. This is it. It is small. We have much larger machines than this. I take full skull maxillofacial cephlometric and panoramic x-rays specifically. We use the x-rays to do diagnosis and do treatment planning for comprehensive orthodontic treatment. Basically we measure the bones of the face and skull with the x-rays amongst other things. I have taken countless x-rays on kids from preschool age to patients 70+ years old. I also take pre and post surgical maxillofacial full skull films. It is pretty specialized especially if you don't have an educated understanding of x-ray and basic physiology

Radiation levels are non detectable with common testing methods.

Ha, a friend and I ran the wiring to the wall for the new machine under our building to the circuit breaker. Installation took a couple of hours. Never in our twenty-five years of providing care to our patients has anyone had any problem with skin cancer as a result of our equiptment. Why am I telling you all this.

We plan to purchase a lot of sophisticated, state of the art equiptment in the near future. Believe me, radiation exposure is of little concern considering the large scheme of owning and operating this type of equiptment. My wife is a board certified orthodntist, former full time faculty professor at an Ivy league university. And I'm part Scotch and much, much more intelligent than her.

These are the type of x-rays I take and for 25 years. This is a newer digital Kodak machine we would love to own. Our current equiptment is older, but takes the same craniofacial x-rays as this does. Technology presses on with this machine. Hospitals and Universitys own these. Only in recent years have they become affordable to private practices like ours. All digital. X-rays appear on the hard drive. A vey expensive software suite is needed to 'process' the raw digital x-rays. Believe me I know more about all this technology than the salesmen trying to sell it to us.

This is the largest machine we have. I just wish we could have a new Kodak machine exactly like this. We probaly will have this or similar soon. Our machine is like this but older.

The only way radiation exposure comes in to play in any way shape or form with airport body scanners is through human error. Example. Not installing the required filters or filter system..

Edit for inserting the links to Mattel.
December 9, 2010 6:27:29 PM

Well thank you for the information.

However, in those links I did not see a report on the machines. If like you say there is not any reason to worry, why do the relevant authorities not just provide one?

Oh and I think my dentist has something like that kodak in the second link
December 9, 2010 6:33:40 PM

strangestranger said:
Well thank you for the information.

However, in those links I did not see a report on the machines. If like you say there is not any reason to worry, why do the relevant authorities not just provide one?

Oh and I think my dentist has something like that kodak in the second link

Well, I can provide a link related to the horible effects of radiation exposure possibilities at your local car wash. We don't do general dentistry. Our business is comprehensive orthodontic TX. The larger maxilofacial machine is not common in general dentistry offices. Your dentist would like do orthodontics in his office to own the machine. In the U.S., a dentists is breaking the law to perform comprehensive orthodontic TX. A dentist can make small movements of a tooth using ortho methods, but can not legally treat a patient for the years required to complete comprehensive ortho Tx.

December 9, 2010 7:07:02 PM

However, in those links I did not see a report on the machines. If like you say there is not any reason to worry, why do the relevant authorities not just provide one?

Stranger, Americans are intelligent people who can be trusted to a large extent. Sure we have our jokers and thieves like any other country, but trust me on this...your mistrust, negativity and and hatred for Americans on a U.S forum is not something that helps your image as Scot. I have told you the radiation levels produced by a properly installed and operated airport scanner are immesurable. Raw sunlight is more harmful. A day at the beach would cause far more raw radiation exposure than thousands of trips through an airport x-ray scanner. Why your refuse to believe this fact is absurd. What makes you think an airport scanner is going to over expose you to radiation? Your idea of such a thing is crazy. Like I said, the only way you could be exposed to even measurable amounts of radiation through an airpost scanner is by human error. Ex. Not installing the filter or filtration system. Do you have a link that demonstrates x-rays penetrating lead? The amount of x-ray produced by an airport x-ray scanner is controlled to the effect of amount of x-ray power produced, speed at which it travels and pinpointed to the tip of a fine sewing needle. When using a modern x-ray tube deployed by a modern x-ray scanner, you do not push the button and radiation spreads through the check in lines on the next floor.
December 9, 2010 8:03:52 PM

You could put most peoples of the world in that first sentence. Your use of generalisations regarding peoples of this world does not help your image of americans. You see how stupid that sounds, using one person to generalise a lot of people who happen to live in a area of the world defined by humans as being different than elsewhere.

Also, this is not a u.s forum. Anything but. It never has been nor never will be anything but an international forum.

I just find it amusing that people, at least accoring to the link provided will not just give people some reassurance over what is being forced upon them.
December 9, 2010 8:52:08 PM

So much for your philosophical renderings. In our country we have a word for people like you. Pigheaded.
December 10, 2010 3:34:28 AM

badge, the problem is that we do not know, and the TSA is stonewalling.

When these airport machines left the factory, they should have left with some sort of certification. All the TSA has to do is release that certification.
December 10, 2010 6:05:55 PM

jsc said:
badge, the problem is that we do not know, and the TSA is stonewalling.

When these airport machines left the factory, they should have left with some sort of certification. All the TSA has to do is release that certification.

Now the inda's prime-mister now saying he/she isn't coming back to the US because of the TSA feeling him/her up.
January 9, 2011 1:05:33 PM

This topic has been closed by Reynod