Home > Health, News of the moment, World of the Strange – Weird Science > X-Ray Scans at Airports Leave Lingering Worries.

X-Ray Scans at Airports Leave Lingering Worries.

By RONI CARYN RABIN   August 6th, 2012.    Find Full Article Here:-

Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Even before she was pregnant, Yolanda Marin-Czachor tried to avoid the full-body X-ray scanners that security officers use to screen airport passengers. Now she’s adamant about it: She’ll take a radiation-free pat-down instead any day.

“I had two miscarriages before this pregnancy,” Ms. Marin-Czachor, a 34-year-old mother and teacher from Green Bay, Wis., recalled, “and one of the first things my doctor said was: ‘Do not go through one of those machines. There have not been any long-term studies. I would prefer you stay away from it.’ ”

There are 244 full-body “backscatter” X-ray scanners in use at 36 airports in the United States. They operate almost nonstop, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Other airports use millimeter wave scanners, which look like glass telephone booths and do not use ionizing radiation, or metal detectors.

Most experts agree that as long as the X-ray backscatter machines are functioning properly, they expose passengers to only extremely low doses of ionizing radiation.

But some experts are less sanguine, and questions persist about the safety of using X-ray machines on such a large scale. A recent study reported that radiation from the machines can reach organs through the skin. In another report, researchers estimated that one billion X-ray backscatter scans per year would lead to perhaps 100 radiation-induced cancers in the future. The European Union has banned body scanners that use radiation; it is against the law in several European countries to X-ray people without a medical reason.

The machines move a narrowly focused beam of high-intensity radiation very quickly across the body, and David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center, says he worries about mechanical malfunctions that could cause the beam to stop in one place for even a few seconds, resulting in greater radiation exposure.

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