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A new study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, says cancer risks from airport body scanners are “trivial,” even for frequent flyers. “Based on what is known about the scanners,” the study’s authors conclude, “passengers should not fear going through the scans for health reasons, as the risks are truly trivial.
“If individuals feel vulnerable and are worried about the radiation emitted by the scans, they might reconsider flying altogether since most of the small, but real, radiation risk they will receive will come from the flight and not from the exceedingly small exposures from the scans.”
Basically, no worries.
The precise radiation dosage administered by these machines has long been a source of debate. The controversy was recently reignited when reports revealed that the TSA had apparently hired a third grader to analyze the radiation output, resulting in data full of bad math. (Obviously I’m kidding about the third grader part.)
That report acknowledged that even the fuzzy numbers were well below what would be considered risky radiation levels. Or, to use the study’s language, “The doses of ionizing radiation emitted by these backscatter x-ray scans is exceedingly low—so low that it is really not known whether there is any potential for causing harm.”
Still, it’s one study, and only one study, and certainly won’t close the book for devoted skeptics of the scanners’ purported harmlessness.
Readers, are you comfortable passing through the body scanners? From a radiation exposure perspective, that is.