OAK BROOK, Ill. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has begun to use whole-body imaging scanners as a primary screening measure on travelers passing through airport security checkpoints. One type of scanner employs millimeter wave technology, which delivers no ionizing radiation. However, the second type of scanner currently deployed at airports uses backscatter X-rays that expose the individual being screened to very low levels of ionizing radiation. In the April issue of Radiology, two articles address the question of what potential long-term public health threats, if any, these backscatter X-ray systems pose.
In the first article, David J. Brenner, Ph.D., D.Sc., director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, N.Y., proposes that from a public health policy perspective, given that up to one billion such scans per year are now possible in the U.S, we should have concerns about the long-term consequences of an extremely large number of people being exposed to a potential radiation-induced cancer risk, no matter how slight.
"The risks for any individual going through the X-ray backscatter scanners are exceedingly small," Dr. Brenner said. "However, if all air travelers are going to be screened this way, then we need to be concerned that some of these billion people may eventually develop cancer as a result of the radiation exposure from the X-ray scanners."
In the second article, David A. Schauer, Sc.D., C.H.P., executive director of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), argues that the summation of negligible average risks over large populations or time periods into a single value produces a distorted image of risk that is out of perspective with risks accepted every day, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
"There is no scientific basis to support the notion that a small risk to an individual changes in any way for that i
|Contact: Linda Brooks|
Radiological Society of North America