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Airport Body Scanners Safe, Experts Say
Date:11/23/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 23 (HealthDay News) -- With this coming Wednesday the busiest travel day of the year, many Americans will soon be subjected to radiation-emitting body scanners at the nation's airports.

Despite a rising tide of concerns and complaints in recent weeks over body scanners, most experts say the radiation exposure from these machines is too low to pose any serious health threat.

Peter Rez, a professor of physics at Arizona State University, said that when a scanner is working properly the amount of radiation exposed is very low.

"The probability of getting a fatal cancer is about one in 30 million, which puts it lower than the probability of being killed by being struck by lightning in any year in the United States, which is about one in 5 million," he said.

"However, it's a mechanically scanned system, and if the scanning mechanism were to jam, something which is quite possible, then one could get a very high-level dose [of radiation]," Rez noted.

The body scanners have a mechanism that shuts off the machine should something go wrong, but Raz is concerned that should that system fail a person could end up with a radiation burn.

"I opt not to go through [the scanner], because I don't know what the probability of failure is," Rez said.

But Peter Kant, a spokesman for Rapiscan Systems, the makers of such scanners, said that "they are completely safe. They have been thoroughly tested."

"The dose of radiation is equivalent to 1/1000 of a dental X-ray," he added.

Kant added that the system has multiple safety mechanisms, and that "we have never had a problem."

Two types of scans -- millimeter wave scanners and backscatter scanners -- are used in the United States.

Millimeter wave scanners, which use radio waves, have no proven adverse health effects and don't expose passengers to any X-rays, but they haven't been widely st
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