Thursday, 4 April 2013

Do Airport X-Ray Scanners Cause Cancer?

According to one report from PBS/ ProPublica, anywhere from six to 100 passengers each year could get cancer from these machines.  The study said that any exposure to ionizing radiation – the kind emitted by the x-ray scanners – increases risk of cancer. Though the machines emit fewer than 10 micro-rems of radiation - which is roughly one-thousandth of the exposure of a chest x-ray-- the National Academy of Sciences has found no evidence that exposure to radiation – even in the smallest amounts – has a zero risk of cancer. In other words: it's possible that these machines cause cancer. A 2011 report from the University of Columbia Center for Radiological Research said that one billion x-ray scans per year could lead to 100 radiation-induced cancers. These one billion scans would be accumulated by a pool of 100 million frequent flyers.

In 1999, the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors, a nongovernmental organization, passed a resolution recommending that the full-body scanners now used in airports be stopped immediately.

In November 2011, the European Union banned use of the body scanners in its airports due to safety concerns.  Only England's Manchester Airport continues to use the machinery.

In a 2011 study from the University of California, San Francisco, airport scanners were found to potentially cause up to six cases of cancer over the course of a lifetime in those people exposed to the scanners – which totals over 100 million people.  So the risk is tiny, according to this study.

The Transportation Safety Administration swears that the machines are safe, stating that the amount of radiation to which people are exposed is minute and worth the risk – as small as it may be – for the increase in security.  The Food and Drug Administration says that the risk of cancer is one in 400 million, citing the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements.

Europe has banned airport scanners over cancer fears. England's Manchester Airport is the only airport in Europe that still uses the back-scatter scanners.

Do you think these machines are safe?

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