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Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Date:1/8/2010

One type relies on radio waves, another uses low level X-rays,,

FRIDAY, Jan. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Since the thwarted Christmas day terrorist attack on an airline flight approaching Detroit, officials have announced plans to increase the use of fully body scans at U.S. airports, leaving some travelers wondering about the health effects of these devices.

Will this effort to detect smuggled explosives and weapons expose passengers to excess levels of radiation? Experts say no.

Two types of scans -- millimeter wave scanners and backscatter scanners -- are being 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 studied. Backscatter scanners use extremely low levels of X-rays.

"A passenger would need to be scanned using a backscatter scanner, from both the front and the back, about 200,000 times to receive the amount of radiation equal to one typical CT scan," said Dr. Andrew J. Einstein, director of cardiac CT research at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

"Another way to look at this is that if you were scanned with a backscatter scanner every day of your life, you would still only receive a tenth of the dose of a typical CT scan," he said.

By comparison, the amount of radiation from a backscatter scanner is equivalent to about 10 minutes of natural background radiation in the United States, Einstein said. "I believe that the general public has nothing to worry about in terms of the radiation from airline scanning," he added.

For moms-to-be, no evidence supports an increased risk of miscarriage or fetal abnormalities from these scanners, Einstein added.

"A pregnant woman will receive much more radiation from cosmic rays she is exposed to while flying than from passing through a scanner in the airport," he said.'/>"/>

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