As it brought in airport x-ray scanners’
Last updated at 9:06 PM on 3rd November 2011
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been accused of glossing over cancer concerns about airport x-ray scanners.
While the TSA has repeatedly asserted that the scanners are safe, research suggests that up to 100 people a year could contract cancer through exposure to radiation from the machines.
The fears were raised as far back as 1998 when the machine known as the Secure 1000 was evaluated by a panel of radiation safety experts brought together by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Trouble-free: The TSA says there is no risk of getting cancer because the amount of radiation the X-ray scanners emit is so small
They all expressed concerns about the machine because it violated a longstanding principle that humans should not be X-rayed unless there is a medical purpose.
The machine’s inventor, Steven W. Smith, told panelists that machine would most probably not be widely used for many years to come.
Now there are 250 in airports across the U.S.with millions of airline passengers walkling through them.
At the time, panelist Stanley Savic said: ‘I am concerned with expanding this type of product for the traveling public.
‘I think that would take this thing to an entirely different level of public health risk.’
A ProPublica/PBS NewsHour probe showed that despite the concerns of the FDA, which regulates drugs and medical devices, it did not have the final say on deploying the deploy the X-ray machines.
Health risk: Critics of the x-ray scanners say concerns about exposure to radiation have been brushed aside
The FDA is only responsible for regulating medical X-ray technology. If the machine isn’t designed or designated for medical use, it isn’t subject to the FDA’s stringent guidelines.
The final say was the job of the TSA, whose job is to prevent terrorist attacks.
ProPublica asserts that the TSA glossed over the long-held scientific view that even low doses of ionizing radiation, the kind beamed at the body by the X-ray scanners, increase the risk of cancer.
Kathleen Kaufman, the former radiation management director in Los Angeles County, said: ‘Even though it’s a very small risk, when you expose that number of people, there’s a potential for some of them to get cancer.’
Aside from 250 X-ray scanners in U.S. airports, there are also 264 body scanners that use a different technology, a form of low-energy radio waves known as millimeter waves.
Robin Kane, the TSA’s assistant administrator for security technology, said having both technologies available was good for competition.
He added that there is no risk of getting cancer because the amount of radiation the X-ray scanners emit is so small.
The competitor: A woman goes through an advanced image technology (AIT) millimeter wave scanner
The TSA now plans to have either machine operating at nearly every security lane in America by 2014.
The machines are expected to become part of the primary screening process, which means everyone will have to pass through them.
Is is thought passengers will be able to request physical pat-downs if they prefer.
According to ProPublica.org, the TSA skipped a public comment period required before deploying the scanners.
Instead it relied on a small body of unpublished research to prove the machines were safe.
It is accused of ignored contrary opinions from U.S. and European authorities that recommended precautions, especially for pregnant women.
The manufacturer, Rapiscan Systems, helped rush through their introduction with an intense and sophisticated lobbying campaign that won them large contracts.
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