Last year, this author reported that the TSA had minimized the risk new X-ray scanners posed to travelers. Today, ProPublica has an in-depth article detailing precisely how the government, in a fit of crony capitalism, ran roughshod over public health concerns to place the invasive technology in 250 airports – and cause an estimated six to 100 cases of cancer in travelers each year.

It begins by noting the deception involved in a September 23, 1998, meeting in Maryland to evaluate the Rapiscan Secure 1000 — the “porn scanners” now ubiquitous in American airports manned by the fearless functionaries of the TSA. At the time, there were only 20 such machines in the nation. Its inventor, Steven W. Smith, assured panelists, “I would be extremely surprised in the next five to 10 years if the Secure 1000 is sold” to or used in “lower-security facilities, particularly power plants, embassies, courthouses, airports and governments.” Despite reticence about exposing anyone to ionizing radiation for non-medical reasons, the panel, properly assured, gave its approval. Today, 250 such machines create high-quality naked photos of everyone from newborns to the elderly in airports throughout the Land of the Free.

Arizona State University physics professor Peter Rez and health physics professor Ken Mossman evaluated the technology in the November 9, 2010, issue of the Radiation Protection and Dosimetry. Unlike the analysis the TSA cites to prove any cancer risk is “tiny” and “miniscule,” this journal is peer-reviewed. According to Rez’s figures, between one and three Americans each year will develop cancer thanks to exposure to these machines.

Since last year, the experts’ estimates of needless deaths have increased. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a radiologist at the University of California-San Francisco, put the number at six. The director of Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research, David Brenner, said both vastly underestimated the danger. He believes at least 100 people a year will contract cancer.

Already, TSA workers at Boston’s Logan Airport have developed cancer say the administration blame their close proximity to the machines day-in and day-out. They are outraged the Obama administration refused to issue them dosimeters, which would have allowed them to measure their exposure to radiation. Captain David Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association, encouraged pilots not to subject themselves to the ionizing radiation. In a letter, he blasted “the needless privacy invasion and potential health risks caused by the body scanner.”

 

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