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

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