After the tragedy of 9/11, the nation and the world was forced to look at many different aspects concerning airport security. The latest measures being taken to ensure security are full body airport scanners, which can be helpful, but some medical experts feel the machines can also be very dangerous. The use of imaging technology can reveal metallic and non-metallic objects, which includes plastic explosives, ceramic knives and other weapons, and the scans also reveal what a person is wearing under their clothing and the images can be quite detailed, and for some people possibly even embarrassing.
How Can Full Body Airport Scanners be Harmful to a Person?
Many experts raise questions about personal privacy being invaded because of the detailed imaging that comes from a full body scan, while others are more concerned about the potential for damage to a person’s health because of X-ray (radiation) exposure. The United States Transportation Security Administration addressed the question of additional X-ray exposure and stated that the machines emit doses similar to what a person would experience in two minutes of flying on an airplane.
In the past, full body scanning was only used as a last resort when all other diagnostic tools had failed in finding tumors in a person that had cancer. During the early 2000’s, more than 32 million individuals had their body’s X-rayed using a full body imaging machine. Since that time numbers have dwindled, possibly due to the fact that medical professionals warned that too many scans could actually be harmful instead of beneficial.
A team of scientific researchers at Columbia University reported in a Radiology journal precise levels of radiation a person is exposed to when undergoing a full body scan. The levels are actually startling; researchers found that the levels of radiation in a full body scan are equal to that received by a Hiroshima survivor living within a ½ mile of the atomic bomb explosion. While the risks associated with one scan are moderate, each time a person undergoes another scan the chances of dying from radiation-related cancer rise 0.8%.
Other experts have found that the radiation levels from one scan alone can be enough to produce a cancer tumor in one of every 1,200 people. For people that have an annual scan or frequent flyers that undergo routine full body airport scanning, the levels of radiation exposure can be very dangerous and risky. When used for diagnostic purposes, a full body scan is undeniably beneficial, but when used for airport security reasons, the line becomes blurred by controversy. Furthermore, the American Cancer Society, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the American College of Radiology strongly advise against using full body scanning for reasons other than medical purposes.
When used for diagnostic reasons, a full body scan can be a life saving option for many people. However, the question still remains, are full body airport scanners harmful to humans? Medical professionals and research experts are divided and further studies are needed in order to determine a better understanding of just how harmful routine body scanning can be in humans. Because use of the machines is fairly new and there has not been enough time, researchers are not able to make a definitive determination of just how full body scans directly relate to an increased risk of cancer and tumors in people and but will be able to do so at some point in the future.