New Study Discusses Radiation Exposure from Full Body Scanners

Radiation is a subject that’s been in the news a lot. Even before the radioactive leaks in Japan and the fear of radiation spreading to California increasing sales of Iodide pills there was often talk in the news about the risks and dangers of being exposed to it.

When the TSA introduced new full-body scanners, that use radiation to screen people for potential bombs and weapons before boarding airplanes, many were concerned about the risks that these scanners posed. How much radiation were people receiving by going through these? Would they increase a person’s risk of cancer? Did frequent fliers have to be extra concerned? I did a Fox News Medical “A-Team” segment on this very subject back in November of 2010.

A new study was just published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine that confirms what was said in that segment: there is no reason to be concerned. The study states that less than 1% of the radiation that will be received during a flight will come from the scanning process; the rest is from the time actually spent in the air on the plane. Additionally, each scan is equivalent to just 3-9 minutes of normal ground-level exposure to the radiation around us.

As stated in my Fox News segment, the scanners use only about 0.1 Microseivert of radiation. In comparison a chest x-ray measures in at 100 Microseivert; 1000 times more radiation than a body scan. I think part of the concern people have is because they misunderstand how much radiation these scanners actually output. Radiation undoubtedly has negative consequences on our bodies, but we’re also surrounded by low doses of it every day as just a natural part of life.

One point that the authors make in their study is that the TSA should approve independent testing of their scanners. I believe they’re correct in this thought; we do need to have regular testing not only of the scanners themselves, but of the employees using them. We need to be sure that the people behind the controls are properly trained and knowledgeable about the technology that they use.

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