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Airport Body Scanners: What do you believe?

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      I travel extensively and have been very wary about body scanners and refuse each time to pass through one. I do not believe that a security official can advise me about the radiation effects of the scanners on my health. Am I right or am I wrong? Here are some data to help us understand the implications, at least, to some extent.

      The Transportation Security Administration [TSA] in the US says the scanners are safe. These devices emit terahertz radiation waves between microwaves and infrared on the radiation spectrum. These machines are presumed safer than the X-ray machines that preceded them and which the European Commission banned in 2011. Neither mm-wave nor X-ray machines are safe; however, there are less data to prove this conclusively. Unfortunately, more and more extreme measures have been taken since 9/11 without any research. Only a handful of studies were presented since the machines were out of the purview of the Food and Drug Administration since medical devices were being used for medical purposes and not food/drugs. While prominent backscatter experts in radiation were stating the machines were not safe, lobbyists’ machinations in the USA resulted in implementing the practice throughout the United States and in some other countries. The following factors were never considered: effects on pregnant women and their fetuses, cancer survivors, and electro-hypersensitive people.

      There is less data on the non-thermal effects of terahertz radiation from body scanners. Studies use mouse cells by Boian Alexandrov and colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory suggest that mm-wave technology can alter DNA expression.

      It is a clear decision for me. Research is insufficient to impel me to use the body scanners. I always request a pat-down and make sure I am at the airport well ahead of time to pass security. What about you?

      References:
      1. Radiation Research. June 2012, Vol. 177, No. 6, pp. 723-726. COMMENTARY. Risks of Exposure to Ionizing and Millimeter-Wave Radiation from Airport Whole-Body Scanners

      2. Radiation Research 179(1):38-45. 2013. https://doi.org/10.1667/RR3077.1

      3. Sci Rep. 2013; 3: 1184. Published online 2013 Jan 31. doi: 10.1038/srep01184 Specificity and Heterogeneity of Terahertz Radiation Effect on Gene Expression in Mouse Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Boian S. Alexandrov,a,1,2 M. Lisa Phipps,3 Ludmil B. Alexandrov,4 Layla G. Booshehri,5 Anna Erat,2,6 Janice Zabolotny,2 Charles H. Mielke,5 Hou-Tong Chen,3 George Rodriguez,3 Kim Ø. Rasmussen,1 Jennifer S. Martinez,3Alan R. Bishop,a,1 and Anny Ushevab,2


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