Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Archives of Internal Medicine on TSA Backscatter: “There is no significant threat of radiation from the scans.”

It’s no secret that Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) has been a hot topic ever since we first wrote about in 2008. While we’ve posted many times on the subject, readers often want to hear from independent third parties to see what their take is. That’s understandable.  So, as we’ve  done in the past, we’re going to highlight another piece on backscatter safety from a third party.

This report comes to you from the Archives of Internal Medicine. In the report, they conclude that there is no significant risk from the radiation emitted during the scans. You can read the full report here:  

Airport Full-Body Screening: What Is the Risk?

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team


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75 comments:

RB said...

No evidence that this person tested a Strip Search Machine for the article.

Question for TSA has any entity been provided free access to any installed in the airport Backscatter WBI's for testing purposes?

Not a Strip Search Machine cobbled together from spare parts but a in the field working unit?

Second question for TSA. How many Backscatter Strip Search Machine cancers would be to many for TSA?
How many deaths of the flying public does TSA find acceptable?

Third question for TSA. Why Backscatter Strip Search Machines when a perfectly acceptable non radiation emitting Strip Search Machine is readily available?

Anonymous said...

Please read the last line of the study:

"but, as pointed out by J. Sedat, PhD, 1 of 4 professors at the University of California, San Francisco, who wrote John P. Holdren, advisor to President Barack Obama for Science and Technology, more independent testing is necessary, and he noted that "it is premature to put a whole population through this with out more due diligence and independent testing." It would seem prudent for the TSA to permit additional testing to verify the safety of the devices."

Anonymous said...

Pretty interesting that you wasted no time in trumpeting this report which supports your position, but have not posted anything about Dr. Brenner from Columbia University who recently testified before Congress and reported his findings in April 2011 issue of Radiology, which CONTRADICTS this report!

Al Ames said...

So Bob, the article doesn't say that they're safe. It says that while the risk is relatively low, it can still cause cancer.

I find it interesting that on one hand, TSA can be dismissive (it'll only cause an additional 4 cancers per year), because the amount of cancers it'll cause will be low. However, on the other hand, 1 idiot is enough to cause a shoe carnival, and body scanners to be deployed nationwide because of one bomber. How often do we hear from TSA and it's supporters "Well, if it'll save one life ... it's worth it"? Why is it acceptable to say "if it'll save one life, it's worth it" but "it'll only cause a few extra cancers, so it's no big deal"?

You can't have it both ways. Why is it acceptable to go crazy to save one but dismiss the jeopardy to 4? So much of TSA is based on "one" but "four" is negligible. Which is it?

This reminds me a lot on the studies of things like cell phones causing cancer. Some scientists say it does, some don't. While I personally don't think they do, the fact of the matter is that there is plenty of debate on it. And of course, this issue has been studied for YEARS! On the other hand, the Nude-O-Scopes are relatively new and haven't been studied for very long. We have conflicting studies here. The bottom line is WE DON'T KNOW if they're safe. We don't have enough data.

If you're going to discuss this issue properly, Bob, you need to discuss the whole issue, not just what TSA thinks will suit its propaganda purposes.

Al

Anonymous said...

Why does TSA refuse to allow its own screening clerks to wear dosimeters that would let them know if the strip-search scanners are malfunctioning?

How often are your strip-search scanners calibrated, and by whom?

Why do you insist on continuing to use a technology that has never found a harmful object but makes travel much more difficult and invasive for people with breast prosthetics, ostomy bags, and the like?

Concerned Observer said...

How many terrorist attacks have been prevented specifically by the backscatter machines? How many people have likely developed cancer specifically because of the backscatter machines (this can be calculated by a simple mathematical formula)?
Now subtract the number of instances of cancer from the number of terrorists caught.
If the number is negative, then the backscatter machines are not beneficial and need to be removed until they can catch terrorists better than cause cancer.

Anonymous said...

From the report

the exposure from these scans is concentrated in the superficial tissues, primarily the skin, and there is no accepted mathematical model for understanding the relationship between skin exposure and risk of skin cancer.

Anonymous said...

"it is premature to put a whole population through this with out more due diligence and independent testing."16 It would seem prudent for the TSA to permit additional testing to verify the safety of the devices."

------------------------------

So will the TSA be prudent?

Anonymous said...

You know I find these reports quite hilarious since there has been no actual testing of these machines by an independant study group to see what the effects of radiation being focused on the skin does. Because the people/company who makes them refuses to allow a real body scanning machine to be tested. You can't believ anything these reports claim until there is an actual study done on an actual machine set at the same setting used at the airport.

Anonymous said...

The authors of that study are missing the point. According to the accepted radiation safety model used in medicine (I'm a radiologist, a physician who specializes in imaging with training that includes radiation safety), the dose of radiation given has to be as low as reasonably achievable. In this case, the lowest achievable dose is 0 mSv if the the alternative considered is the milliwave scanner. Plus, the risk of developing cancer for frequent fliers and children in that article still exceeds the risk of dying in a terrorist attack on an airplane (http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2010/01/odds_of_dying_in_terrorist_attack_on_airline_1_in_25_million_struck_by_lightning_1_in_500000.php). I will continue to opt out, and continue to be embarrassed by people - including the authors of this study - who are willing to risk the lives and health of innocent travelers without justification.

Joe Mass said...

Relevant Quotes:

"Even a small risk per person could potentially translate into a significant number of cancers."

"Every exposure carries some risk, even the exceedingly small doses of the airport scans."

"Issues have been raised regarding the efficacy of the scanners, and if the scanners are not deemed efficacious they should not be used."

"It would seem prudent for the TSA to permit additional testing to verify the safety of the devices."

TrackerNeil said...

Good gods...you know, if we brought a 1990 American forward in time and showed him what is now routine at airports, he'd probably think the future was a dark, dark place. The amazing part is the way the whole business just crept up on us. It started small, with removing shoes, then went to a ban on liquids, and now has progressed to the passenger's choice of an x-ray or a full-body frisk. How did we get here?

Anonymous said...

In case you didn't notice this is not a study from a third party. This is an analysis of the data provided by the TSA. They still state at the end of the article that further TESTING of the machines should be performed.

This is what the public is calling for, not analysis of the data only the TSA is privileged enough to "gather".

Also, did you not notice how many times it was stated that their conclusion was based upon estimations and extrapolations. When you are dealing with the health of millions of people this is not good enough.

Finally, the whole thing is unconstitutional and should be stopped regardless of any other concerns.

Anonymous said...

The report that was published regarding radiation states clearly the TSA "supplied the radiation levels". Radiation levels were not tested by an independent third party or even received from the manufacturer. Once again, it appears the TSA cannot represent the facts clearly and correctly. The TSA is twisting a story to alleviate public concern. The TSA cannot tell law-abiding taxpaying Americans the truth.

Anonymous said...

On many occasions I have asked how the TSA resolve medical implants under the skin which are detected by body scanners. Blogger Bob has repetedly said that body scanners do not penetrate the skin. This is not true. In the report 'Airport Full-Body Screening: What is the Risk? it states clearly that body scanners reveal ALL types of prosthetics.
This is further confirmed in the Privacy Impact Assessment Update for TSA Advanced Imaging Technology, January 25, 2011. Here it states that 'medical implants underneath the skin will show as an anomaly in the x-ray technologies'.
So, I will ask again: how are medical implants beneath the skin which alarm as anomalies in body scanners resolved by the TSA?
This post does not contravene your guidelines and is not off-topic because it refers to the report you include.
Please could you now finally answer this very important question.

Dan said...

If you applied the same standard of "no significant risk" to the ridiculous procedures that you force on us as you do to justifying the unacceptable risks you force upon us, then you would not have nearly the PR problem you currently do.

Do us all a favor and stand next to an operating nude-o-scope for a month. Please do this after a signing a waiver stating that all the risks and responsibilities are yours and will never be passed on to the tax payers.

Anonymous said...

I am not quite sure how you can call this paper a third party testing of the equipment. All that this paper contained is assessments based off of papers and information that the government has provided to others. Until these machines are handed over to third party testing agencies to actually test them, these papers based on potentially false information do nothing to quell my concern over their usage. The authors even state that this paper is "Based on what is known about the scanners". Needless to say, this is only painting over our concerns.

Anonymous said...

If you read this article, the author states: "It would seem prudent for the TSA to permit additional testing to verify the safety of the devices." I am not sure that makes me feel any safer about going through these scanners when the study you point to questions your testing methods.

Bill said...

What people want is a third party TEST. Not some supposition based on data that can't be verified. This isn't a study and is not relevant to the conversation.

At any rate you shouldn't use them because they are a flagrant volition of the 4th amendment.

It's all I can do not to resort to name call but your agency is the shame of the country.

Bill said...

Also one of the authors of the studies says that the TSA should allow further study of the devices and monitoring of the Backscatter machines in the field but won't.

So how about that?

http://esciencenews.com/articles/2011/03/28/analysis.suggests.cancer.risk.backscatter.airport.scanners.low

Anonymous said...

FTFA: "We estimate that for every 2 million girls who travel 1 round trip per week, 1 additional breast cancer could occur from these scans over their lifetime. This increase of 1 cancer per 2 million young girls needs to be put in the context of the 250 000 breast cancers that will occur in these girls over the course of their lifetimes owing to the 12% lifetime incidence of breast cancer."

"Yes, Your honor, I killed a man, but thousands of men die every day, so one more is no big deal..."

...while the risks are indeed exceedingly small, the scanners should not be deployed unless they provide benefit—improved national security and safety

...which they don't (as recent tests prove- 5 guns smuggled through out of 5 tries, remember?)
So, when are you going to remove them, Bob?

Anonymous said...

"no significant risk from the radiation emitted during the scans"

Sure, if you don't count

"every exposure carries some risk, even the exceedingly small doses of the airport scans"

and

"the exposure from these scans is concentrated in the superficial tissues, primarily the skin, and there is no accepted mathematical model for understanding the relationship between skin exposure and risk of skin cancer"

and

"[among all fliers] 6 cancers over the lifetime of these individuals could result from the backscatter scans"

and

"[among frequent fliers] 4 additional cancers could occur from the backscatter scans"

and

"for every 2 million girls who travel 1 round trip per week, 1 additional breast cancer could occur from these scans over their lifetime"

...other than that, there's no risk at all.

"more independent testing is necessary,... "it is premature to put a whole population through this with out more due diligence and independent testing.""

Word.

Anonymous said...

Which of course changes nothing. It's still harmful to the Fourth Amendment.

If you are not secure in your persons, houses, papers, and effects, then you are not secure.

Gern Blanston said...

Of course, you don't publicize articles like this one, from last December.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...canners22.html

"Scientists can't check TSA's scanner-safety claims

You have little to worry about from the radiation beam flitting over the front and back of your body in airport watchdogs' search for explosives and other hidden implements of terror this holiday season, says the federal Transportation Safety Administration. But the groups it claims to oversee the full-body scanner's safety say they have no direct authority or faced roadblocks in testing an actual scanner..."

(snip)

"TSA also frequently cites a study it commissioned by the noted Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). But the Hopkins work did nothing to ensure consistent safety of those exposed to radiation from the scanners.

"APL's role was to measure radiation coming off the body scanners to verify that it fell within [accepted] standards. We were testing equipment and in no way determined its safety to humans," said Helen Worth, the lab's head of public affairs. "Many news articles have said we declared the equipment to be safe, but that was not what we were tasked to do."

Moreover, the study said APL scientists were unable to test a ready-for-TSA scanner because the manufacturer would not supply one. Instead, tests were performed on a scanner cobbled together from spare parts in manufacturer Rapiscan Systems' California warehouse."

Anonymous said...

Bob, Bob, Bob. What are you going to do with you?

“There is no significant threat of radiation from the scans?”

The authors conlude no such thing. The claim of this paper is that the level of radiation that the machines are designed to emit is safe. The authors specifically cite concerns that human or machine malfunctions are a concern and recommend further testing. The authors also quote cite an Advisor to the President who asserts that it is premature to expose the flying public to the machines.

Are you purposely trying to mislead or did you fail to read the paper, Bob?

Why did you not quote:
"Specifically, it is usually assumed that a "linear no-threshold" model applies (ie, the risk is directly proportional to the dose) and that there is no threshold, meaning every exposure carries some risk, even the exceedingly small doses of the airport scans. However, this may not be accurate. Even so, no alternative model exists. "

With no model, how do the authors subsequently model the risk? Incidentally, a "linear no-threshold" model is NOT typically used for the reasons that the authors suggest; it is important that modelling and statistics be left to those with some level of expertise. The authors of this study are clearly out of their league in terms of this aspect - the critical aspect of the study. By their own admission, the modality can not be linearized accurately.

"Among the 750 million enplanements per year taken by 100 million passengers, 6 cancers over the lifetime of these individuals could result from the backscatter scans. These 6 cancers need to be considered in the context of the 40 million cancers that would develop in these individuals over the course of their lifetimes due to the high underlying cancer incidence. "

This is statistically indefensible. It is dead certain that the numbers used in the analysis do not support ~1e+8 estimates of outcome to any meaningful level of confidece, meaning that statistically 6, 60, 600, .6, .06 cancers are equally likely outcomes. The authors should not give up their day jobs to become mathematicians/statisticians.

I'm also surprised that you apparently did not find it significant to note that more independent testing is necessary, and he noted that "it is premature to put a whole population through this with out more due diligence and independent testing." Or that "[i]t would seem prudent for the TSA to permit additional testing to verify the safety of the devices."

Finally, it is interesting to note that the authors found it significant that:
1. The TSA does not permit independent assessment of the machines, raising concerns that if the machines do not function as provided.
2. The settings may be changed by employees after the machines are installed.
3. If the machines undergo software or mechanical errors or malfunctions, unknown effects could result.

So the authors conclude that the level of radiation claimed to be emitted by the machines is "safe" - based on a flawed model - but recommend further testing due to possible human and technological uncertainties yet you elect to claim that the authors have declared that the MACHINES - not the level of radiation claimed to be emitted - are safe.

Far from justifying the TSA's use of the machines, I conclude from the data presented by the authors that the use of the machines without further testing demonstrates a reckless disregard for the health of the travelling public.

Josh said...

well yes, it does say that “There is no significant threat of radiation from the scans."

BUT! It also says:

"...more independent testing is necessary"

"it is premature to put a whole population through this with out more due diligence and independent testing."

"It would seem prudent for the TSA to permit additional testing to verify the safety of the devices."

While noting that the TSA does not permit independent testing.

My question is, why not?

Anonymous said...

When the TSA enrolls their employees in an 'open-records' radiation exposure monitoring program, only then will I believe that AIT's are not a clear and present danger to the health of the TSO's working around them.

What would a dosimeter program do for the TSA?
- Track emission levels.
- Minimize legal risks.
- Add another 'layer' that would actually do something to protect the TSO.
- Allow second-source monitoring of equipment function.

If you work around a radiation source of any type, you owe it to yourself to know exactly how much radiation you are exposing yourself to. So nice to know that the TSA thinks that workplace safety is so worthless, but that unproven technologies and techniques are so valuable.

Bubba said...

From the text you linked to:

"Discomfort with the backscatter scanners exists in part because of health and privacy concerns and in part because the TSA does not permit independent assessment of the machines, raising concerns that if the machines do not function as provided, or if the settings are changed by employees after the machines are installed, or if they undergo software or mechanical errors or malfunctions, unknown effects could result. The TSA asserts that the machines have been adequately tested by various organizations but, as pointed out by J. Sedat, PhD, 1 of 4 professors at the University of California, San Francisco, who wrote John P. Holdren, advisor to President Barack Obama for Science and Technology, more independent testing is necessary, and he noted that "it is premature to put a whole population through this with out more due diligence and independent testing." It would seem prudent for the TSA to permit additional testing to verify the safety of the devices."

Also, from a recent article in Radiology (April 2011 259:6-10; doi:10.1148/radiol.11102347) you conveniently did not link to:

"Are X-Ray Backscatter Scanners Safe for Airport Passenger Screening? For Most Individuals, Probably Yes, but a Billion Scans per Year Raises Long-Term Public Health Concerns Radiology

From a public health policy perspective, given that up to 1 billion such scans per year are now possible in the United States, we should have concerns about the long-term consequences of an extremely large number of people all being exposed to a likely extremely small radiation-induced cancer risk—in particular given that there are current practical alternatives that do not involve ionizing radiation."

And we are still waiting for a response to the in depth article in Nature stating there is no science behind SPOT.

Don't cherry-pick the science.

Anonymous said...

Discomfort with the backscatter scanners exists in part because of health and privacy concerns and in part because the TSA does not permit independent assessment of the machines, raising concerns that if the machines do not function as provided, or if the settings are changed by employees after the machines are installed, or if they undergo software or mechanical errors or malfunctions, unknown effects could result.

Bob and whomever else moderates/reads:

The problem, yet again, with this "study" is that these two authors haven't actually tested the machine!

Once again, it's another piece based off whatever data was provided to them. They clearly did not have a machine and do not have a machine and in no way have actually tested the amount of radiation coming off the machine and how much of ionizing radiation is hitting skin surface, the concentration levels (there are reports it's concentrating on the tops of the heads).

This simply is unfair. Why isn't our government sending out a machine or two to a reputable radiation scientist or school for testing so that there is a TRUE INDEPENDENT THIRD PARTY PEER REVIEWED assessment out there for the flying public?

The TSA is NOT cooperating with the scientific community by allowing the machines to be tested independently. Why is this happening? What is this agency hiding about these machines? And how does it think the passengers are supposed to feel when we read this, and it clearly indicates the TSA and its supplier are not providing machines for testing???

Anonymous said...

To add to my earlier comments...

I just read a Wall Street Journal blog about this study. The author herself stated the following in an email:

"Alas, the TSA has not made the machines available for researchers to make direct measurements." (Dr. Smith-Bindman via email)

I reitierate that this is non-news, and not conclusive proof of anything as the researchers had to rely on data this organization provided.

Again, this is unfair and I do not understand why the TSA cannot simply allow researchers to test your machines that you are subjecting to the public. If they are no threat, they will certainly say so. But to use US citizens (passengers and screeners) and guests in this country as guinea pigs is simply outrageous and unacceptable. The government has no right to increase anyone's risk of cancer. Absolutely inane (and insane).

Anonymous said...

So when does the TSA plan to start using the backscatter machines on people disembarking from the plane?

After all - it's already well-known that the TSA was groping people disembarking from the train in Savannah, and the TSA lied to people to get them to go into the station.

Why is that, Bob? Why hasn't the TSA explained exactly what it is they're up to?

Or are we really supposed to entrust National Security to a bunch of idiots who can't read a watch?

Anonymous said...

"The TSA asserts that the machines have been adequately tested by various organizations7, 9, 17 but, as pointed out by J. Sedat, PhD, 1 of 4 professors at the University of California, San Francisco, who wrote John P. Holdren, advisor to President Barack Obama for Science and Technology, more independent testing is necessary, and he noted that 'it is premature to put a whole population through this with out more due diligence and independent testing.'16 It would seem prudent for the TSA to permit additional testing to verify the safety of the devices."

Anonymous said...

Did you actually read the report? First, they admit that their estimates are very inaccurate because of a lack of data on exposure risk at the levels the machines use. Second, their conclusion is that the machines will cause several cancers every year. Third, they recommend independent testing of the machines.

SSSS for some reason said...

Thank you for the link, interesting read. Not a lot of information in the article, but there are copious amounts of footnotes so I have high-hopes for the referenced materials.

The article doesn't address, however, the regular testing and maintenance of the WBI scanners. What the machines are designed to do and what they are actually doing is still somewhat vague by your very own reporting. And I'll point to one fact specifically, the TSA Agents using the equipment are not trained or certified to anywhere near the same level as just about every other radiological device out there requires of its operators.

The article doesn't mention the prohibition of TSA Agents wearing Dosimeters while in close proximity to the equipment. The article referenced approximately one hundred thousand scans per year which would be an average of less than one scan per year per passenger, but results in an average of 150 scans scans for each and every TSA worker. And that is using the very simplest of maths.

So again, thank you for sharing, but really you made me more nervous about the equipments and systems involved, not less.

Anonymous said...

No offense to Bob et al. - you're not scientists - but this is a joke, right? First, is this peer reviewed? It's listed as a 'special article', not as original research. Second, there is neither data nor are methods described in detail. Third, there are surprizingly few references to original research; most are collections of data or review articles. Fourth, the author admits that there is no accepted way to account for skin vs full-body exposure to ionizing radiation. They then go on to ignore that fact and use the models for full-body exposure. Fifth, not to take anything away from her accomplishments, but the author is a radiologist, not a health physicist. Unless her previous publications are not representative of her work in the area of health physics, she doesn't appear qualified to make conclusions about the validity of mathematical models in this case, nor does she appear qualified to design new models to account for the localized dosing.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the author concludes with the statement "It would seem prudent for the TSA to permit additional testing to verify the safety of the devices." Regardless of her qualifications or analysis, her eventual conclusion does very little to support your contention that the backscatter devices are safe. She concludes by agreeing that you need to allow further study before using them on the public.

Adrian said...

I haven't had time to read it in detail.

Note that this is not an independent study that collected and analyzed data. This paper merely analyzes the data we've already seen from the non-independent sources. Furthermore, it does not address one of the primary concerns: that ambient background ionizing radiation potentially has a different effect than focused ionizing radiation. The authors also fail to address that there are not studies on the effects of focused ionizing radiation on the corneas.

Even with all those oversights, take a gander at some of these conclusions:

Issues have been raised regarding the efficacy of the scanners, and if the scanners are not deemed efficacious they should not be used.

And from the final paragraph

[T]he TSA does not permit independent assessment of the machines, ....16 The TSA asserts that the machines have been adequately tested by various organizations7, 9, 17 but, as pointed out by J. Sedat, PhD, 1 of 4 professors at the University of California, San Francisco, who wrote John P. Holdren, advisor to President Barack Obama for Science and Technology, more independent testing is necessary, and he noted that "it is premature to put a whole population through this with out more due diligence and independent testing."16 It would seem prudent for the TSA to permit additional testing to verify the safety of the devices.

The TSA could make all of this go away simply by selecting the MMW machines (which do not use ionizing radiation) and abandoning the x-ray backscatter machines. But I guess then Chertoff wouldn't make as much money.

Anonymous said...

I am a family doctor who would never dream of ordering an X-ray that uses ionizing radiation when an ultrasound will do the same job more safely. Why does TSA insist on using any ionizing radiation when there is a viable alternative (millimeter wave technology), especially when you do not give any consideration to those who may be more vulnerable to radiation - pregnant women, young children, those who have already received high doses of radiation from previous treatment?

When I order imaging studies, they are performed by licensed technicians with years of training, and done on equipment that is checked daily, weekly and annually by relevant authorities, in a facility that is also state-licensed. Why does TSA expose all travelers to the dangers of radiation performed by unlicensed individuals with 2 weeks of training, and on equipment that is only inspected (maybe, we aren't allowed to see the records) annually?

My computer displays error messages frequently, and only my typing is at risk. When the computers behind your irradiation equipment malfunction, how will TSA know what to do, or will they even recognize a problem? When even highly specialized cancer centers can make (potentially fatal) ten-fold or 100-fold errors in dosage, why should we allow a TSO with 2 weeks of training to irradiate our bodies with untested equipment? Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab did NOT test TSA Rapiscan equipment and approve it as safe, despite TSA assertions to the contrary.

You have omitted the caveats mentioned in the Archives' article: IF the machine performs as specified, IF it is used on the average infrequent flyer, and IF it actually detects terrorists and their weapons. We know that the machine has recently let through knives and weapons that would have been detected by the walk-through metal detector. The backscatter does not detect explosives which are the greatest threat to aircraft.

It is wrong for TSA to irradiate up to 2 million Americans daily and incur all these risks ("a few extra cancer deaths" mean a lot to those with the cancer) without knowing the benefits. It is even worse that TSA slants information and lies to the American people about these risks.

Anonymous said...

Now you just need some independent, verifiable testing tha indicates the pornoscanners are actually effective at finding things.

Not a lot of that forthcoming, it seems.

8675309 said...

"If individuals feel vulnerable and are worried about the radiation emitted by the scans, they might reconsider flying altogether since most of the small, but real, radiation risk they will receive will come from the flight and not from the exceedingly small exposures from the scans."

And if individuals are worried about the privacy of their images being converted to look like the Michelin Man, perhaps they might want to also reconsider flying altogether since most of the small, but real, ogling risk they will receive will come from people looking at them with their clothes ON, not exposures from the scans.

RB said...

From the article referenced.

"The TSA considers the risk for causing harm trivial. Even though the doses are low, the cancer risk merits consideration given there are 750 million passenger enplanements a year, and even a small risk per person could potentially translate into a significant number of cancers."

So TSA considers the risk of cancer trivial.

I wonder how many people killed by TSA screening methods it would take before the number is not trivial?

How many are to many TSA? 1 person? 10 people? A 1,000 people?

What is the number of friendly casualties TSA finds acceptable?

The number cannot be zero since TSA has and continues deploying Backscatter Whole Body Imagers that clearly use dangerous xrays. So the question stands, how many friendly casualties are acceptable to TSA?

It seems a real shame that TSA is willing to sacrifice citizens when the job is to protect those citizens from terrorist.

Anonymous said...

8675309 said:
"And if individuals are worried about the privacy of their images being converted to look like the Michelin Man, perhaps they might want to also reconsider flying altogether since most of the small, but real, ogling risk they will receive will come from people looking at them with their clothes ON, not exposures from the scans."

Good point, 8675309! Why do we allow the government to put us in a position where ogling of any kind is needed. Amazing.

Adrian said...

This is not independent, third-party research into the amount of radiation the x-ray backscatter machines expose passengers to. It is a cancer risk analysis based on the amounts we've already seen published in the government-funded studies, several of which are heavily redacted.

This paper advocates for the TSA to revise its policy prohibiting independent evaluation of the machines.

Adrian said...

Here's a gem from the paper:

Naturally occurring radiation is higher at the altitudes of commercial air flights because of the greater proximity to the sun.

Um, no. Flying a few miles up does not put you significantly closer to the sun. Consider that the Earth's orbit is elliptical, and varies by something like 3 million miles. That is, part of the year, the Earth is three million miles (roughly 3%) closer to the sun that it is at other times of the year. Flying at six or seven miles altitude is not significant in terms of the distance to the sun.

The ionizing radiation we're concerned about is cosmic background radiation. The reason flying at high altitudes increases exposure is because there's significantly less atmosphere to shield you from the rays that arrive from all directions in space.

If it were just about solar radiation, we'd simply scheduled all flights at night.

Chris Boyce said...

I can't add anything to many other commenters' points with which I agree and, which I know we will never receive answers that pass the giggle test.

I have a new question that wasn't asked yet: Who paid for the study at UCSF? Was the school given a grant from the TSA S&T office? Did they receive a corporate grant from Rapidscan? How about a grant from the Chertoff group?

Given that the author states that the TSA provide the radiation levels, your slimy fingerprints are all over this "independent" study.

You might as well tell us who funded this study because we will find out one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

Am I allowed to have a pat down, rather than the full body screening? Do I have a choice. I'm afraid of breast cancer, terribly afraid. And I don't want to risk it. Yet, because my aging mother lives in Honolulu, and I live in Seattle, I have to fly through Seattle often.

Anonymous said...

other people have posted the argument of 1 life saved from terrorism vs. the damage the scanners will do cancer-wise, and i tend to agree that this is complete hypocrisy if the TSA tries to justify scanners this way.
sources for this alleged study clearly indicate that radiation from the scanners are certainly likely and one source even states that the increase in breast cancer for 5 year old female frequent fliers is 9140 per 100,000. so the TSA is ok with supposedly saving 1 person from being harmed via terrorism (although they have yet to prevent anything) at the cost of an additional 9,000 cancer victims? and yes, i do understand that there are probably not 100,000 5 year old frequent fliers and thus the additional 9140 cases is theoretical, but this does in fact prove that there is cause for concern.
the machines were also tested against "normal" conditions. there was no account exposure of people with reduced or damaged immune systems. no account for exposure of people who have previously had cancer and may be susceptible to a relapse. the word "estimate" and "estimated" are used judiciously throughout the report's sources. error percentages in some of the tests even range as high as 30%. let's also mention that the scanner that was tested is a model i have never seen in any airport.
look specifically at source number 9. it is nothing but an 8 page powerpoint with less than a few lines of text per slide and some of the worst clip art i have ever seen. this is an authoritative source?
this isn't a definitive report on radiation for airport scanners, this is a joke. yet apparently it is good enough for government work.

8675309 said...

Thousands of complaints on this blog about "strip search machines" and "genital gropes" and not a single person has posted an alternative idea. It is easy to complain about something you don't like, it is another completely to make a constructive comment.

Without using answers like "stop searching" or "respect the constitution" or "the cockpit doors are hardened" or "the screeners are inconsistent" or "my privacy is being violated" can anybody provide a solution on how to clear sensitive areas of the body without using available technology or physical pat downs?

Anonymous said...

The reality is backscatter scanners emit radiation and there will always be doubt as to how safe they are no matter what TSA or any researcher says. Since there is an alternative technology that doesn't use radiation - millimeter wave scanners - why does TSA even use the backscatter scanners? The public deserves an honest answer to that question.

Anonymous said...

HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!! It's so funny. Blogger Bob has been quiet for a while, and between his last postings, a lot of TSA news worthy of blog commenting was hitting the news. Everything from Senate actions to checkpoint incidents, but they were all news that gave an incompetent image of the TSA. Then, as soon as I saw this article come out on the news, I went to Blogger Bob's page, and just as I expected, he's alive again and commenting on it.

So predictable. I am convinced that the only reason why TSA set up this blog site was to maintain TSA damage control. Keep your eyes open America. Don't let them fool you.

Anonymous said...

This is typical of the TSA. Nothing more than LIES, LIES, and Cherry Picking LIES to support their own agendas (insert your own ideas here)with no regard for the people they purposed to protect.

Makes your wonder.........

Anonymous said...

"If individuals feel vulnerable and are worried about the radiation emitted by the scans, they might reconsider flying altogether since most of the small, but real, radiation risk they will receive will come from the flight and not from the exceedingly small exposures from the scans".

That about sums that up!!!

Anonymous said...

"An individual would have to undergo more than 50 airport scans to equal the exposure of a single dental radiograph, 1000 airport scans to equal the exposure of a chest radiograph, 4000 airport scans to equal the exposure of a mammogram, and 200 000 airport scans to equal the exposure of a single abdominal and pelvic computed tomographic scan. Thus, the doses for the airport scans are exceedingly low compared with doses routinely received in the health care context".

Things that make you go HMMMM!!!

Anonymous said...

So, in other words, Blogger Bob is lying about the report? Huh. Serves me right for taking the TSA at their word.

Must remember: Everything the TSA says is, at best, a half-truth.

Citizen 655321 said...

More propaganda that obscures the reality of the situation. Will it never end, Blogger Bob? Perhaps if the TSA admits that it has made many, many mistakes with regard to both the purchase of these wasteful contraptions along with woefully inadequate PR efforts, there can be some sort of progress.

End the security theatre song and dance routine.

Anonymous said...

Hey there Bob.

How old are you? Old enough to remember when the highlight of a visit to the shoe store was hopping up on the "shoe fitting machine" and seeing in x-ray vision how well your shoes fit? They were "safe" too, until they weren't.

I think I'll skip your fancy new machines that toss radiation at my body.

Anonymous said...

Will the cancer cases still be "trivial" when DHS/TSA has to start paying out to TSA employees who develop cancer from standing next to these machines for a good part of their working day?

SciMjr2 said...

In the article it states that these body scanners, assuming that they are all calibrated and working properly, are safe because the radiation doses are so low; comparable to 3 to 9 minutes of daily life radiation.

Once again, assuming that is correct, what are the risks of administering such a dose in a relatively short period of time? With these scanners you are delivering up to 9 minutes of radiation in about 30 seconds so my question would be does the amount of exposure become more or less lethal based on time.

The whole situation I liken to a Doctor prescribing medication ... if he told you to take X amount per day for a week would it be safe to take the entire week's dose all at once because you would be taking that amount anyway?

SciMjr2 said...

I just wrote to the Author of the article, Ms. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, with regard to how large doses over short period of time would affect the body. The article did say that these scanners could expose you to as much as 9 minutes of normal daily radiation in the process of 30 seconds and I wanted to know if exposure time and dosage had any problems and here is what she wrote me back!

"Hi
in general your question is reasonable - does the timing of delivery matter for radiation. The topic has received considerable attention, called fractionation when speaking about radiation; is one large dose equivalent to many smaller doses, or are they the same. The simple answer is that this question has not been resolved.

All the best
Rebecca Smith-Bindman

Ayn R. Key said...

If it saves one life it's worth it - even if it kills four people to do so.

Anonymous said...

I am a 64 grandmother of 8. I pose no threat whatsoever to anyone! I will not go through the x-ray maching and resent pat downs. I am thinking of just stopping all travel because of it. Isn't there some way to 'record' that I am a safe traveler and not be required to submit to such invasions of privacy? With all your technology, surely you could find a way to accomodate those like myself!!!

Mary said...

A) There is still a risk. A "low" risk does not mean the same thing as "no" risk.
B) None of your TSA officers operating any of your radiation-emitting devices receives training in use and maintenance of radiation-emitting devices. Your officers hardly even have high school diplomas, so I'm NOT trusting them to know if they're operating these devices safely or according to your supposedly safe guidelines.
C) This kind of radiation is bioaccumulative. That means that every little bit of this radiation, while small, stays in your system.
D) These backscatter devices don't even catch weapons that go through them, so why should I open myself up to the radiation risk, not to mention the humiliation of voluntarily giving up my 4th Amendment rights and exposing myself to your officers?

Anonymous said...

8675309 said...
Thousands of complaints on this blog about "strip search machines" and "genital gropes" and not a single person has posted an alternative idea.

This has been asked and answered before. The response basically comes down to: Metal detectors, and explosive sniffers (canine or electronic). No nudie-scan. No long waits at security lines. No taking your shoes off. No 3-1-1 rule. No nonsense.

Anonymous said...

8675309 spouted the normal drivel asking for an alternative:

8675309, the existing system DOES NOT WORK, as proven time after time after time after time when people take large weapons through without being stopped. Given that, what is the purpose in doing the scans or pat downs at all?

Our current situation is that we have machines that dose us with ionizing radiation, a guard staff full of perverts and power-trippers who look at us naked and GROPE us in ways that even the police can't do just so we can go about our daily lives, and in the end, they DON'T EVEN ACCOMPLISH THEIR STATED PURPOSE. So YES, of COURSE the alternative is to NOT DO IT. Bad stuff + no benefit is far worse than no bad stuff + no benefit. Why, why, why is that so hard for some of you to understand? Are you that incredibly whipped by the idea that government always knows best?

Anonymous said...

You can stop posting your propaganda reports on the safety of your backscatter machines Bob. The only people who believe you are those who cant read or who are to young to read. I have to occasionally fly and when I do I will be patted down. You can keep your "safe" scanning machines. If I want to get cancer I will take up smoking at least I hear that relaxes you.

Anonymous said...

I'll go with a doctor's judgment over that of a government bureaucrat. No offense.

Anonymous said...

Still no discussion of the fact that TSOs can turn up the dosage to punish passengers who disrespect your authority?

How high is the maximum punitive dosage, in Sieverts or Grays, not in your "less than you'd get from standing next to a banana" gibberish?

Anonymous said...

This was put out by Reuters...

"Turns out the TSA’s new body scanners might not be quite as safe as originally thought. According to Switched, the most recent testing of radiation levels of the airport security devices was found to be 10 times higher than previously tested. How did this happen, you ask? Simple. The testers forgot to divide the total output by 10 to get an average reading. Which does raise the question: who are they hiring to do the testing?"

What's that about?

Anonymous said...

Why do the Blog moderators not even attempt to refute the clear and irrefutable logic of the members of the public who have pointed out the falicies and inconsistencies with the original article?

Because THEY CAN'T!!!

The TSA is a danger to the public safety, our Freedom and the American way of life.

I fear TSA backlash, so I am anonymous said...

Blogger Bob has the worst job in the world: defending the indefensible. Is it really worth the paycheck? Surely you could find a better job.

If you're actually in this for truth, justice, and the American way, would you please comment on what seems to be an irrefutable counterargument to the incredibly weak evidence you presented?

Anonymous said...

This whole up-in-arms attitude over the backscatter x-ray is ridiculous to say the least. You people scream 4th amendment, without any apparent and real understnding of what an administrative search is.

I'll make it simple. All screening procedures in place there BECAUSE of the 4th amendment. It is called 'administrative search', meaning you have full rights to NOT consent to the lawful search and seizure. If you don't want to consent, then don't set foot in the checkpoint. The 4th amendment is a two way street that grants the government certain powers just as it grants private U.S. citizens certain rights. There is nothing the TSA is doing that's against this amendment in question, and no, nothing is ever confiscated against your will. Everything is voluntarily abandoned, after given options to depart the checkpoint to mitigate whatever it is you had in your bag how you see fit. That's where the powers and rights have their delicate balance.

To sum up, these new machines are to facilitate effeciency as best as possible and to provide a deterent to people with ill-intent against our aviation industry and the millions that fly every day, week, month and year.

And as I've noticed an alleged radiologist has posted to this blog, who claims to know all abou radiation safety. If so, then said private experts in the field would know that all radiation producing machines have a threshold they will not surpass while in operation. No independant studies have been allowed, likely for this and other similar reasons, the reduntancy will just chew up more tax dollars unecessarily.

Those monies could be used to allow TSA to be more proactive in its approach to security and testing such devices for further advacements and training, rather than over silly misfounded accusations a machine giving you radiation worth a few minutes at flight altitude. (Oh by the way, once went to the dentist office and he/she took all those nifty X-RAy shots of your mouth, your face and brain just walked through a backscatter about several thousand times. Don't hear people complaining about THOSE gross exposures. Or that 3, 5, 10, 12 hour flight and how much you're getting there. Why aren't all aircraft leadlined or other means of better radiation protection while at altitude?) So we can further DETER people from attempting to sneak weapons through (and please stop using stats of successes from professionals within TSA succeeding - they can win every time because tehy know the system inside and out, unlike the rest of you.)

This is just my two cents retort fueled from everyone out to try to flame the people that are on YOUR SIDE. On a last note, everyone please research the reasons for various things like the shoe removal policy and liquid limitations.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:
"The 4th amendment is a two way street that grants the government certain powers just as it grants private U.S. citizens certain rights."

A novel and totally bizarre Constitutional concept. Care to cite any reference at all that the Fourth grants government powers?

"There is nothing the TSA is doing that's against this amendment in question, and no, nothing is ever confiscated against your will."

Actually, there's significant evidence that this is the case, eg, care to address US vs. Fofana?

Seriously, leave the Constitutional law to experts but thanks for playing.

Avinash Sookdeo said...

NO RADIATION THREATS??? really Bob.
so how come TSA won't allow its screeners to wear dosimeters, even after AFGE offered to provide it to screeners?

USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2010-12-06-tsa-xray-inside_N.htm

AFGE
http://www.afge.org/Index.cfm?Page=PressReleases&PressReleaseID=1265

medical student said...

please Bob
“There is no significant threat of radiation from the scans?”
can u go further please

Gitarre Lernen Online said...

I'm neither a physicist nor a physician. So I don't know. That's why I have to trust people who do know.

But if both sides (let's say TSA vs. scholars) contradict each other - whom to trust? What to belive?

I understand that people are careful and, if in doubt, do not trust these new machines.

I live in Europe and I must admit that I'm happy we don't have these scanners over here. Only if embarking on a plane to the States.

I did it this summer but it wasn't too bad actually. The picture looks like a comic figure. And if it prevents you from being touched by a security person then there's some benefit to it.

Unknown said...

Why does TSA refuse to allow its own screening clerks to wear dosimeters that would let them know if the strip-search scanners are malfunctioning?

How often are your strip-search scanners calibrated, and by whom?