Foreign and Defense Policy

It’s Safe to Use TSA’s Body Scanners

Remember those dangerous TSA body scanners? The brouhaha last November over the TSA’s new security measures seems like a distant memory now. Among other objections raised by the critics, we heard dire warnings that the backscatter x-rays were dangerous to your health, which led many travelers to refuse to go through the scanners and opt for hand pat-downs instead that many found invasive.

Well, it turns out those warning about the dangers of full body scans were wrong. The Wall Street Journal reports that a new analysis, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, has determined that the scanners don’t pose a significant health risk to passengers:

Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco and one of the article’s authors, said the amount of radiation emitted by a full-body scan “is a drop in the bucket” compared to the amount of radiation used by X-rays and other medical-imaging procedures such as CT scans. The amount of radiation women would be exposed to from a mammogram is equal to 4,000 airport scans, while the amount from an abdominal CT scan would equal 200,000 airport scans.

Dr. Smith-Bindman said air travelers are exposed to far more radiation from flying, and that going through a full-body scan “is like one or two minutes on an airplane.” She noted everyone is exposed to radiation on a daily basis from the sun and the Earth. Flying increases the amount of radiation exposure from the sun.

You can read the full study here. Bottom line: If your plane circles the airport for a few extra minutes waiting for a free runway, you are exposed to far more extra radiation than you’d go through in a TSA scanner. Of course, this news won’t assuage those who oppose full-body scans on ethical grounds. But for those concerned with health, if you don’t want the TSA to “touch your junk,” it’s perfectly safe to go through the scanner instead.

Image by Quinn Dombrowski.

Comments are closed.