In addition to privacy concerns over full body scanners used in airports, U.S. scientists are now warning that radiation from said scanners has been dangerously underestimated and could lead to an increase in skin cancer, particularly in children
U.S. scientists are reportedly warning that radiation from the controversial full body airport scanners has been dangerously underestimated and could lead to an increased risk of skin cancer — particularly in children. The skin around the face and neck are most at risk.
Unlike other scanners, radiation from airport full body scanners is delivered at low energy beam levels, with most of the dose being concentrated in the skin and underlying tissue according to University of California biochemist David Agard.
Dr. Agard said that “while the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high.” Dr. Agard also says that ionizing radiation like the X-rays used in those scanners can potentially induce chromosome damage which can lead to cancer.
Of further concern is the fact that a failure in the device, such as a power or software glitch, can cause an intense radiation dose to a single spot on the skin.
The concentration on the skin — one of the most radiation-sensitive organs of the human body — means the radiation dose is actually 20 times higher than the official estimate according to David Brenner, head of Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research.
Dr. Brenner, who was consulted to write guidelines for the security scanners in 2002, claims he would not have signed the report had he known the devices would be so widely used. He said a type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma, which occurs mainly on the head and neck and is usually curable, is the most likely risk from the airport scanners.
Dr. Brenner went on to note that “there really is no other technology around where we’re planning to X-ray such an enormous number of individuals,” and “while individual risks will be extremely small, the population risk has the potential to be significant.”