Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering, Our Backscatter Imaging Technology Is Still Safe

Backscatter SignThe safety of our Backscatter Advanced Imaging Technology is being called in to question again. As I’ve done before on this topic, I’m going to simply provide a bulleted list of facts and links. Also, if you haven’t heard yet, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole told Congress last week that we’re going to have another independent safety study on our Backscatter imaging technology.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Center of Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) both verified that the advanced imaging technology (AIT) equipment TSA purchased and deployed emits radiation at rates much lower than the limits set in the national radiation safety standard for all members of the traveling public and all TSA employees.  
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab assessment included several recommendations to continue to ensure the highest standard of safety and health. TSA has successfully completed each recommendation.  
A backscatter scan is equivalent to amount of naturally occurring radiation received during two minutes of flying at altitude.  
In addition to these independent studies validating the safety of imaging technology, TSA also conducts site acceptance testing of AIT units upon installation in airports to ensure each individual AIT unit meets safety standards.  Once installed, preventive maintenance is regularly performed by qualified personnel.  
Certified health physicists from the U.S. Army Public Health Command are also performing additional radiation safety surveys to ensure continued compliance with radiation safety standards.  
In early 2011, TSA posted radiation surveys for every backscatter imaging technology unit deployed in U.S. airports. The reports confirm that every backscatter unit currently used for passenger screening in U.S. airports is operating well within applicable national safety standards.  
TSAposts reports for all radiation tests, including the annual TSA-mandated testof every X-ray based technology, on TSA’s website as they are completed.  
Accordingto CBS News, MIT’s leading radiation safety experts and experts from the HealthPhysics Society, drinking three glasses of water a day for a year might giveyou a cumulative exposure of about 0.045 millirems, that's at least five timesmore than the dose from an airport scanner and well beneath the 10,000 milliremline where there is danger. According to Francis Marre, former director ofradiation safety at MIT, “There is no known risk” from being scanned.  
SanFrancisco Weekly story on backscatter technology.  
HealthPhysics Society’s FAQ: “ Safety for Security Screening Using Devices ThatExpose Individuals to Ionizing Radiation.  
FDA FAQ page: “Products for Security Screening of People”.  
SFWeekly article featuring leading radiologists refuting safety claims by UCSFprofessors.  
National standard for one backscatter scan: 0.025 millirem (two and a half one-hundreths of a millirem) per scan.  
TSA’s backscatter systems maximum possible radiation emission: 0.005 millirem (five one-thousandths of a millirem) scan.  
TSA’s backscatter systems actual emission: generally less than 0.0025 millirem (two and a half one-thousandths of a millirem) per scan.  
Advanced imaging technology screening is safe for passengers, including pregnant women and children. One backscatter technology scan produces the same exposure as approximately two minutes of flying on an airplane. Advanced imaging technology is optional for all passengers.


TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.
 
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58 comments:

alex-sterling said...

Here's what I don't understand. If you earnestly believe it's safe, and those who say otherwise are manifestly wrong, why do you feel the need to keep reaffirming it?

In other words, let's say I'm an upstanding and law-abiding citizen, and mostly everyone in my neighborhood knows me as such. Then, let's say someone else in my neighborhood kept going around telling people I was a drunk and a pedophile. Should I constantly feel the need to defend myself against such baseless accusations? Or wouldn't I just patently dismiss them as ridiculous?

Also, if you earnestly believe the AIT to be safe, why do you feel the need to announce "another independent safety study on our Backscatter imaging technology"? If they have already been declared safe numerous times over, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as the litany in your post suggests, why would you need yet another study? The existing evidence should speak for itself, right?

RB said...

http://epa.gov/radiation/understand/health_effects.html#anyamount



Is any amount of radiation safe?


"There is no firm basis for setting a "safe" level of exposure above background for stochastic effects."

"Many sources emit radiation that is well below natural background levels. This makes it extremely difficult to isolate its stochastic effects. In setting limits, EPA makes the conservative (cautious) assumption that any increase in radiation exposure is accompanied by an increased risk of stochastic effects."

Anonymous said...

Please list the number of times AIT has been tested by a third party on a deployed machine. Not a government agency. Not a contractor to the manufacturer, not an affiliate. Not a lab unit, or a development unit. I want a third party to walk into an airport and test the thing.

And please, PLEASE stop using things like glasses of water or bananas as a radiation scale. Sunlight on your face is just fine. that SAME AMOUNT of sunlight passing through a lens and focused can burn you. Unless you account for the fact that AIT focuses the radiation, all the silly stats in the world about daily exposure from other *un-focused* sources are meaningless.

RB said...

http://www.uspirg.org/issues/safe-energy/what-level-of-radiation-exposure-is-safe


So, when news reports state that radiation levels in Tokyo (150 miles to the south of Fukushima) are 10 times normal levels, but that the risk is “slight,” they are, in one sense, correct. However, there is no known safe level of exposure to radiation, and low-level exposures still have the potential to cause harm, particularly if they persist over a long period of time.

Anonymous said...

In response to alex-sterling who asks why Bob/TSA feels "the need to keep reaffirming it", i.e. the safety of their AIT.

Let see, could it be because the media and blogging bums are piling on again with fake science and pure self promoting hogwash claiming the AITs are unsafe. Weak question and simple answer. I don't always agree with Bob but this time he's just trying to answer the questions floating around the bowl, refusing to go where they belong.

Anonymous said...

Hello RB, (However, there is no known safe level of exposure to radiation,) - just a suggestion but have you considered curling up in a fetal position and sucking your thumb asking the real world to go away so you can be perfectly safe? Face reality, no amount of radiation is safe but there is no escape from radiation so grow up and find a real issue.

P.S.- please disinfect that thumb befoe sucking on it, there could be salmonella on there from the door handle of the bathroom. While you're at it, don't forget to disinfect the squirty handle on the disinfectant bottle because there are all sorts of dirty hands touching those all day long... oh, the horrors of our modern irradiated world. How do we keep growing older if the world is so unsafe?

Nadav said...

Any radiation above the natural background radiation can be dangerous above a certain frequency.

One time screening won't kill anyone, but the question is whether there is any danger to frequent flyers, such as those who pass through the scanners once a week or more.

Nadav

Anonymous said...

If these scanners are safe, why are your screeners prohibited from wearing dosimeters? Wouldn't that be an easy way to prove that they are safe? If the people working next to the machines are getting excess doses of radiation, then there is a problem. I think the TSA workers are going to be the first group to suffer because of these machines if there is a problem with them.

I can't go through the scanners due to a medical condition, so I always get the enhanced patdown if I'm selected for the scanner. I would gladly go through the metal detector instead. However, I get the pleasure of getting touched in intimate areas by a federal employee. I've never been patted down by the police, but I can't imagine that it could be worse (outside of a cavity search) than what I've experienced with the TSA.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that your screeners will now be allowed to wear dosimeters?

Anonymous said...

Curtis, if they're so safe, why can't your screeners wear dosimeters?

Anonymous said...

Huh. Another post about your strip-search technology that fails to mention that they've never detected a single dangerous object, while forcing thousands of people with harmless, private medical devices to be molested by poorly-trained, unprofessional screeners. Why is that?

Saul said...

"Advanced imaging technology is optional for all passengers."

How cute to leave out the alternative that those who opt out (or who cannot physically maintain the "hands-up" pose the scanners require) must face: a patdown by a federal employee, absent any probable cause that one has committed a crime.

Besides, there is a lot more wrong to these scanners than their potential health hazards, such as the basic question of whether they provide any measure of added security.

Nearly all of the "good catches" you have touted have been caught with the screening technology that was in use for decades: metal detectors and baggage x-rays. And in the first seven years of the TSA's existence, when these scanners were not deployed, how many flights that originated in the US were bombed or had bombing attempts?

Surely the TSA must have realized that airplane bombings were a possibility before the underwear bomber.

The scanner technology has been around since at least 1998. So why the sudden push to deploy these scanners when we managed quite fine without them for a decade?

[Screenshot captured.]

RB said...

Anonymous said...
Hello RB, (However, there is no known safe level of exposure to radiation,) - just a suggestion but have you considered curling up in a fetal position and sucking your thumb asking the real world to go away so you can be perfectly safe? Face reality, no amount of radiation is safe but there is no escape from radiation so grow up and find a real issue.

P.S.- please disinfect that thumb befoe sucking on it, there could be salmonella on there from the door handle of the bathroom. While you're at it, don't forget to disinfect the squirty handle on the disinfectant bottle because there are all sorts of dirty hands touching those all day long... oh, the horrors of our modern irradiated world. How do we keep growing older if the world is so unsafe?

November 8, 2011 10:13 AM

...............
Thanks for the personal attack Anon. Tells me all I need to know about you.

Why do you object that I posted opposing material, one from the EPA and another from an advocacy group?

Does the truth threaten you in some way?

TSA has been misleading the public and has been downright dishonest with information released about the Whole Body Imaging systems from day one. Early claims that these systems had been tested by outside groups were fabrications. One group was given a scanner cobbled together from spare parts for testing but not an actual installed working machine.

Curtis said...

Anonymous at 10:13, you said- "Face reality, no amount of radiation is safe but there is no escape from radiation so grow up and find a real issue."
Are you saying that life has a certain amount of risk to it? Because that is exactly how I feel about flying. It has a microscopic amount of risk that I am willing to accept, and I don't need the TSA creating a tiny cancer risk to try to protect me from a tiny terrorism risk.
TSA- why don't you just get rid of these things. As much as I hate all AIT, millimeter wave machines have zero radiation, and offer privacy protections. Is there any real reason not to ditch backscatter?

Anonymous said...

[[have you considered curling up in a fetal position and sucking your thumb asking the real world to go away so you can be perfectly safe?]]

You have described the TSA-apologist position quite adequately, if uncomplimentarily, and albeit without intending to.

The real world knows better than to attempt cost-ineffective solutions to a given problem. The problem? a yahoo with more spare time than brains can cobble together a $25 hack-job and stick it in his drawers and cause "the world's richest nation®" to spend $billion$ to detect another yahoo doing the same thing ... and which will likely not work if the yahoo flattens it out or just inserts it into the nearest orifice.

In the meantime, the concept of this mode of attack is so bereft of plausibility that we fail to have seen it implemented anywhere, at any time, by anyone - even in venues without the security apparatus to detect it [maybe]. ...which means that the expenditure of $billion$ on our part? foolish and unrealistic.

You can substitute, at your pleasure, shoe "bombs" and liquid mix-on-the-plane "bombs" whose detection techniques and procedures have cost the nation $billion$ in lost productivity alone.

[[How do we keep growing older if the world is so unsafe?]]

Another pertinent question is how do planes keep taking off and landing with "security" that is notoriously bad at its job if the prospect of terrorism renders such security imperative?

Terrorists are either "always probing" and thus - statistically - they could send 10 inductees with butt bombs and 7 would get aboard to do their dirty work, or the declared threat is grossly overblown by a government intent on scaring the pants [or shoes, at any rate] off the flying public. Which is it, do you think?

And that is another good question: "Do you think?"

Our planet was hit by an asteroid 65 million years ago and it nailed the coffin shut on the dinosaurs. Does that meant that we are justified in peering into the sky in constant vigilence to watch for the next asteroid? Or does it suggest that those who do are paranoid?

rwilymz
http://dblyelloline.blogspot.com/

RB said...

TSA continues trying to pass of Whole Body Imaging systems as safe.

I would suggest, especially those who stand around these devices for hours each day if you can really trust your government to be honest about the safety of these things.

For those of you old enough to remember what did government say about Agent Orange?

Perfectly safe claimed the government while thousands ended dying painful deaths from exposure to Agent Orange.

http://www.usvetdsp.com/agentorange.htm

I ask, do you really trust government to be honest about these Electronic Strip Search Machines?

Anonymous said...

Once installed, preventive maintenance is regularly performed by qualified personnel.
__________
How often and who are these "qualified personnel"? In a medical setting, the date inspected must be kept near the machine visible to all workers and those subject to the machine's rays. I have never seen this certificate in an airport. If this information is given on a TSA report/ web site please provide more information.

Adrian said...

A great, fascinating article on how politics, money, and fear overrode all of the safety concerns:

http://www.propublica.org/article/u.s.-government-glossed-over-cancer-concerns-as-it-rolled-out-airport-x-ray

Did you know that the U.S. Customs service used to use these machines in limited circumstances but required subjects to sign consent forms? Did you know the California prison system used these in the late 1990s but removed them in 2001 to settle a lawsuit? Did you know that the committee that determined the "safe" levels was a trade industry group that had no independent scientists?

Did you know that the value stated for air travel dosages conflates ionizing and non-ionizing radiation (and thus makes a poor comparison to the dosages emitted by the machines). Did you know that the machines focus the radiation on your skin, but the other dosages for comparison are all for ambient exposure? Did you know that there's no medical research on the effect of x-rays on the corneas?

Did you know the FDA can regulate the x-ray machines that scan our luggage but cannot regulation the x-ray machines that scan us?

Adrian said...

When will the TSA hold the public comment period that was legally required before these machines were deployed?

Anonymous said...

Not this nonsense again.

"Within allowed limits" is *not* the same as being safe.

Any amount of radiation has a risk. The real question is: does the benefit outweigh the risk?

For medical X-rays the answer is yes.

For TSA scanners the answer is no. Over the long run the TSA will kill more people than the terrorists.

Bubba said...

Sorry, but no amount of ionizing radiation should ever be used without a clear medical benefit. In airports, there is no medical benefit. Even if the doses are as low as you claim, and were well distributed in the body, these machines will cause cancer in some ailine passangers. It does not matter that the percentage is low. These are real people you are making sick.

Second, radiation is not all the same, and backscatter is poorly studied in humans. Since it concentrates on surfaces, the local dose on the skin is much higher on these cells. So, even if the machines are well calibrated (doubtable, since they are not subject to medical equipment mandatory maintenece, and are not operated by radiology professionals), their biological effects on skin, eyes and other surfaces can be much more significant than you claim.

Add to that the fact that they cannot detect explosives in cavities and cannot differentiate between explosives and maxipads, ostomies and other harmless objects, leading innocent passengers to harassment and allowing real terrorists a nice loophole.

Anonymous said...

I thought your bosses said that these scanners wouldn't be used as primary methods of screening. What happened to that promise?

AK-VStrom said...

Re: Anonymous

"Hello RB, (However, there is no known safe level of exposure to radiation,) - just a suggestion but have you considered curling up in a fetal position and sucking your thumb asking the real world to go away so you can be perfectly safe?"

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

Nice...you do realize that the same idea applies to *you*, right? No amount of TSA scoping and groping will make you perfectly "safe" either, so why should those of us who object to these egregious practices have to choose between having our 4th Amendment rights violated and being banned from the airlines, just to mollify the rest of you?

Anonymous said...

I don't care what you have to say about your precious scanners, the government has no business taking naked pictures of me just because I want to fly.

Anonymous said...

All of these conclusions, IF we are to believe them, are under the assumption that the machines are working properly. What happens when a machine fails? That won't happen right? See what happened in Hawaii!

Radiation feared in Airport shutdown

Mysterious emissions caused the Lihu‘e Airport to shut down for a few hours Thursday evening and sent several Transportation Security Administration staff to Wilcox Memorial Hospital emergency room … but at least one person who was working at the airport Thursday suspects the culprit was a radiation leak in one of the TSA screening booths.

http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/article_68dacfc6-0787-11e1-8073-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1d9CYo2Tj

Anonymous said...

How about being honest for a change and telling us the truth? The actual backscatter imaging machines now being used were never tested by John Hopkins.

For every expert you say has proclaimed the exposure from backscatter imagining technology is safe, there's one who maintains it is not or that there is no way of knowing for sure.

Common sense (which is something TSA seems to lack) dictates that any unnecessary exposure to radiation should be avoided. This was the conclusion reached by the European Union. The EU is using only the millimeter wave (MMW) imaging technology which doesn't emit ionizing radiation.

What I don't understand is why TSA doesn't just scrap the backscatter scanners and replace them all with MMW? Yes, I've seen the argument that TSA makes about having competing technologies. But is this the truth? Or is it that TSA bought the backscatter scanners because of intense lobbying by their manufacturer, Rapidscan, who employs a number of former federal public officials and has made generous contributions to others?

Anonymous said...

"There is no firm basis for setting a "safe" level of exposure above background for stochastic effects."

"Many sources emit radiation that is well below natural background levels. This makes it extremely difficult to isolate its stochastic effects. In setting limits, EPA makes the conservative (cautious) assumption that any increase in radiation exposure is accompanied by an increased risk of stochastic effects."

Yet people keep on using their cell phones, laptops, Ipads, Kindles, metal detectors, televisions, radios, game systems, and continue to fly. All of which produce radiation.

Anonymous said...

If x-ray scanners are so safe then why has the European Union banned them from all European airports on grounds of safeguarding passengers health.
I'll bet you don't allow this post because it contradicts your research and is embarrassing for the US.

Anonymous said...

Why might average Americans NOT believe the TSA radiation safety cliams?

1. When the TSA published AIT radiation levels earlier this year, the TSA went through an embarassing episode of fumbling the data that should have been readily available to taxpaying travelers.

2. The TSA's repeated claims of a professional workforce are constantly called into question by unethical and unlawful employee behaviors (albeit some) at multiple airports across the United States.

Sadly, many Americans like myself feel like we can not trust anything the TSA says or does given your organization's tainted performance. Trust and credibility have to be earned and the TSA has an uphill challenge.

RB said...

November 8, 2011 @ 7:48PM
Suspected Radiation Leak Exposes Ignorance About TSA Photo Policy


http://www.pixiq.com/article/suspected-radiation-leak-exposes-ignorance-of-tsa-photo-policy


The basis of this story concerned TSA employees becoming ill and some people thought the Backscatter Strip Search Machines may have been the cause but also revealed a continuing issue that TSA seems incapable of dealing with.

From the article:

"Meanwhile, an employee of Lihu’e Airport snapped photos of the HAZMAT team conducting their investigation, sending them to The Garden Island newspaper.

The employee told the newspaper that TSA workers regularly forbid passengers from taking photos at the checkpoints.

The worker who spoke with The Garden Island said TSA staff always tells travelers to put down their cameras, prohibiting them from taking pictures at the airport.

“It makes you wonder what kind of stuff is going on there,” he said.

And a state Department of Transportation spokesman told the newspaper that passengers are not allowed to photograph the checkpoints.

Meisenzahl said travelers are allowed to take pictures at the airport, but not of TSA equipment and checkpoints, per TSA policy."

So TSA, why can't your agency formulate and promulgate a policy and require compliance by TSA employees?

Is TSA so dysfunctional that even a simple policy regarding photography is to difficult for TSA so called management to implement?

This issue continues to happen across multiple TSA checkpoints and certainly demonstrates just how poorly TSA employees have been trained and also demonstrates how unqualified TSA employees are for the jobs taxpayers are forking out billions of tax dollars in salaries for.

I say it is time to end the failed TSA experiment!

Anonymous said...

"There are weapons of Mass destruction in Iraq"
"Agent Orange is completely safe"
"We are not bombing in cambodia"
"Read my lips, no new taxes"
"I did not have sex, with that woman, Monica Lewinski"

Government never lies.

Anonymous said...

What about human trials? Seems to me like something like this should go through some kind of test on humans before it is used on the general public. And those trials really should look at repeated exposure over long periods of time too.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"What about human trials? Seems to me like something like this should go through some kind of test on humans before it is used on the general public. And those trials really should look at repeated exposure over long periods of time too."

Who would be stupid enough to volunteer for a trial like that?

Adrian said...

Yet people keep on using their cell phones, laptops, Ipads, Kindles, metal detectors, televisions, radios, game systems, and continue to fly. All of which produce radiation.

With the exception of CRT televisions, none of those produce ionizing radiation, and CRT televisions have lots of shielding and come with warnings about viewing too closely.

X-ray backscatter machines focus ionizing radiation on the skin for absolutely no benefit to the individual.

Chris Boyce said...

Does the TSA have an algorithm to predict how many times you have to lie about a certain issue before it becomes truth?

Anonymous said...

If the TSA can't even train its employees not to lie about the photography policy, why should we (the public) believe anything they tell us?

Concerned Observer said...

Re: Human Trials

What do you think is going on in the airports right now? The TSOs are the "high exposure" group, frequent fliers are the "mid exposure" group, and infrequenr fliers are the "low exposure" group. I suppose non-fliers are the "control" group...

That said, an experiment on exposure to ionizing radiation is NOT what the rollout is WBI is for. It's merely a side effect.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
If the TSA can't even train its employees not to lie about the photography policy, why should we (the public) believe anything they tell us?"

Why does this continue to be an issue? Can't the TSA send a memo to every employee explaining the policy that photography is permitted? I've seen a lot of youtube videos where the TSA employee tells the filmer that he can't videotape at the checkpoint. I've only seen one video (at BNA I think) where a cop tried to confiscate the phone, but the TSA employee corrected told the cop it was ok to film.

Anonymous said...

>> Who would be stupid enough to
>> volunteer for a trial like that?

Apparently the large majority of Americans who have no problem assuming the prisoner pose inside the scanners and who think that the machines are actually keeping them safe.

Anonymous said...

I would like to offer what I hope is a serious set of constructive suggestions. I welcome TSA’s decision to conduct another study about the potential radiation damage created by the back scatter machines but I am concerned that they will merely repeat past studies and data. There are 3 studies that probably should be performed in order to convince at least me that these machines are “safe”.

The first would be on the production machines themselves. Several of them should be tested to failure under adverse and high use conditions to see what their failure modes are and to answer the question “Do they fail safe?”. I would like some assurance that when they do fail (as all machines will) that they do not fail in a high radiation mode focused on one point.

The second would be a study on the effects of focused back scatter radiation on the skin, eyes, testicles and other exposed body parts. This would probably be best done with lab animals that would be subjected varying doses of this sort of focused radiation to see what they do develop and comparing it to control groups with no additional radiation and also with the MMW machines. While I don’t normally condone live animal testing, it is better that than doing it on humans which is what we are doing now. Obviously some of the dosages would have to be quite high and others low over an extended period of time.

The third study would be to randomly select machines in the field and determine their operating levels and current maintenance condition. I know this was partially done by the Army, but the airports and TSA managers ot to pick and choose equipment.

It would be of significant value if these studies were done by a non-governmental agency. To add credibility, I would suggest a major university or medical school and I would hope that they would be chosen for their expertise in the medical research areas or in Industrial research. I would also like to see the data reported in a peer reviewed journal. While I am a scientist, these fields are only tangentially related to mine and having someone who does this sort of work regularly review the study would go a long way in assure, at least me, that the studies were as unbiased as possible.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote: Why does this continue to be an issue? Can't the TSA send a memo to every employee explaining the policy that photography is permitted?

That would require actual thought on the part of management and the capability of the TSA employees to actually learn something. Evidence suggests it's simply not possible.

(Curtis, that's your cue to have the TSA prove me wrong. Let's see the entire TSA go, say, a month without lying to a passenger and telling them it's "illegal" or "against federal regulations" to videotape a checkpoint.")

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the results of an Ames test with these machines. That is a test to see how much they change the genetic material of bacteria.

These machines have never been tested with even the simplest of microorganisms. Why should they be tested on me?

Anonymous said...

No it is not.

Anonymous said...

"Who would be stupid enough to volunteer for a trial like that?"

I suggest we start with all the TSA employees who assure us that the machines are completely safe.

Anonymous said...

"Yet people keep on using their cell phones, laptops, Ipads, Kindles, metal detectors, televisions, radios, game systems, and continue to fly. All of which produce radiation."

None of the items you list produce measurable radiation in the same EM band as the backscatter machines.

Sorry.

RB said...

http://news.yahoo.com/eu-adopts-guidelines-airport-body-scanners-123735703.html


And in order not to risk citizens' health and safety, only security scanners that do not use X-ray technology can be used at EU airports.

......................

Appears that TSA feels no obligation to use Strip Search Machines that do not risk citizens health and safety.

Tony said...

So repeated exposure to radiation is safe? THANKS BLOGGER BOB! I now feel OKIE DOKIE about going through this six times a week!

Anonymous said...

All,

Please keep in mind that all of our cherry-picked, er, CITED research indicates that the backscatter machines are completely safe, and in most cases, even beneficial to you, the traveling public.

You should feel completely safe being exposed to unnecessary ioninzing radiation, because we have previously said that it's safe, and are now again saying that it's safe. By the way, did we happen to mention that it's safe?

Remember: by standing next to a Belgian waffle maker for 14 years, you will absorb most of the dose that you receive in a single scan! Who's afraid of a little Belgian waffle maker, huh? Not you! You're a man, you can take it, can't you?

Besides, it's been shown that the backscatter X-ray machines can kill germs that are living on the surface of your skin! Hey, we're doing YOU a favor! You should be paying *us* for the privilege of going through these machines. (Well, I guess technically, you are...)

Ayn R. Key said...

Knock it off Bob.

All your experts have repeatedly called it relatively safe. The way that X-Rays in the doctor's office are always dangerous but not using them to examine an injury is more dangerous, so the X-ray is relatively safe.

If there was a safer alternative to X-rays in the doctor's office, doctors would use it because it is unsafe even at relatively safe levels.

Now the TSA does have a safer alternative, the MMW. Yet the TSA keeps pushing the BXR.

No matter how relatively safe BXR is, as long as MMW exists then BXR is not safe.

Anonymous said...

No they are not.

Anonymous said...

"One after another, the experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration raised questions about the machine because it violated a longstanding principle in radiation safety — that humans shouldn’t be X-rayed unless there is a medical benefit"

nicky yates said...

interesting that you keep saying it's safe while the entire EU banned it just this week as the type of radiation is strongly linked to cancer... also NONE of your studies looked at the effect on the body or skin in particular. flawed studies. you only measured the amount emitted and whether that was in limits- there's a strong difference between what's emitted in general and when it's concentrated on the body in certain areas. http://www.businessinsider.com/europe-body-scanners-ban-2011-11 just in case you needed more studies...

Anonymous said...

It has just come to my attention that your agency is trying to back down from doing another study based on the report of your own internal IG. This is not satisfactory. The summary of that report (the full report is not out yet) is all about your procedures, whether or not you testing and maintaining the machines properly and some independent radiation monitoring.

This does nothing to resolve the issue of whether or not surface focused ionization radiation is "safe" and at what dosage. As has been said over and over, your safety limits are based on whole body radiation.

There are no studies on how this sort of radiation increases skin cancer, ocular cancer, testicular cancer, etc ... and yet you tell us it's safe. Nobody really knows. Please do the studies at independent medical research facilities and publish the results (all of them) in peer reviewed journals. Then I will take this sort of thing seriously.

Anonymous said...

If they're safe, why put off the third-party studies of them?

http://www.propublica.org/article/tsa-puts-off-safety-study-of-x-ray-body-scanners

What does the TSA have to hide, other than the monetary gain for certain former TSA personnel by continuing the use of those backscatter scanners?

Anonymous said...

"The head of the Transportation Security Administration has backed off a public commitment to conduct a new independent study of X-ray body scanners used at airport security lanes around the country."

Sounds responsible, funnily enough my last comment was ignored even though it was within the guidelines and mentioned that the FDA had found that these scanners go against the accepted guidelines that humans should not be exposed to radiation other than when medically necessary.

AK-VStrom said...

Bob, you can claim the x-ray scanners are safe until you are blue in the face and your fingers have been worn down to nubs from typing on this blog so much. The travelling public will never believe you. Want to know why? Your refusal to allow TSOs to wear dosimeters, your refusal to follow court-mandated public comment period and your refusal to follow through on what you *say* you are going to do and actually allow an independent third party to test the x-ray scanners strongly implies otherwise. When research (http://www.propublica.org/article/u.s.-government-glossed-over-cancer-concerns-as-it-rolled-out-airport-x-ray) shows that you ignored safety concerns when deploying these devices, and yet you still refuse to test them -- even after committing to do so (http://www.propublica.org/article/tsa-puts-off-safety-study-of-x-ray-body-scanners) -- why should we trust anything you have to say? If TSA quacks like a duck...

Anonymous said...

Safe or not, why does it take 3 times longer, and still require a patdown right afterword? I'm not so excited about being told 4 times (forcefully) to remove everything from my pockets (I turn them out now), and then have my genitalia grabbed.

It's getting foolish people. It's not safer, it's less intelligent.

kieu choe said...

so your saying that you want to rely on marshall law, if this is the case then the airlines are in serious trouble as i dont think that people will get on planes knowing that they are the first line of defense.
as to the other part of your statement, use of a plane as wmd, you forget about checked luggage. the act of a terriorist is to inspire fear. and by blowing up a plane with a bomb or real gernade can cause terror. just because the 9/11 hijackers used the plane as a weapon doesnt mean that they wont start to use bombs to take out planes and get people to stop flying. tsa isnt just there to stop hijackers. they stop item from going into the baggage areas of the plane where people dont have access.