Are Total Body Scanners Safe? The Jury Is Still Out

A few weeks ago we were told that CT scans and mammograms can increase the risk of cancer. Since the rush to deploy the new total body scanners in our airports has been a topic of hot debate. There has been a burning question that has not been answered that needs to be. If CT scans and mammograms are no longer considered safe, what makes the total body scanners safe to use?

body-scanner-at-manchester-airport

The technology used in the full body scanners is either backscatter x-ray or millimeter waves . Both use a form of radiation call terahertz photons (T-rays). T-rays are a form of infrared energy that lies between radio waves at the low-end and microwaves at its higher end. It may be non-ionizing unlike x-rays; however, the energy is able to penetrate tissue, clothing, paper, plastic, wood and ceramics among other things.

The TSA website represents the full body scanner as a safe method of screening. However, not only are we giving up our privacy, we are also playing Russian roulette with our safety. It is important to note:

1. No long term safety tests have been conducted on these scanners

2. The energy produced by T-rays gives off heat and lies close to the laser range.

Because of this, there is a question about how safe these machines would be in the

hands of individuals who may not be as well trained as a radiology technician.

(Theoretically there may be damage associated with prolonged thermal exposure.)

3. Alexandrov et al. at Los Alamos National Laboratory theorized that the

thermal energy given off by T-rays can damage DNA

By unwinding or unzipping the double helix strands of DNA. This could possibly lead

to mutations as the DNA attempts to repair itself.

It is clear that the rush to deploy these machines may put the public at unacceptable risk. The questions about safety for pregnant women, children, and the possibility of increased cancer risk need to be answered before these machines are put into place. It simply is not clear whether the risks are outweighed by the stated benefits.

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