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Radiologists Downplay Health Risk From Airport Body Scanners

 |  By John Commins  
   January 06, 2010

The American College of Radiology today downplayed concerns that full body scanners at security checkpoints in U.S. airports would pose a health risk.

In the wake of a thwarted Christmas Day bombing attempt on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in the skies over Detroit, the Transportation Security Administration has announced that it is ramping up the deployment and use of the scanners, which produce anatomically accurate images of the body and can detect objects and substances concealed by clothing.

TSA has deployed two types of scanning systems: Millimeter wave technology uses low-level radio waves in the millimeter wave spectrum. Two rotating antennae cover the passenger from head to toe with low-level RF energy. Backscatter technology uses extremely weak X-rays delivering less than 10 microRem of radiation per scan—the radiation equivalent one receives inside an aircraft flying for two minutes at 30,000 feet.

"The ACR is not aware of any evidence that either of the scanning technologies that the TSA is considering would present significant biological effects for passengers screened," ACR said in a media release.

"An airline passenger flying cross-country is exposed to more radiation from the flight than from screening by one of these devices," ACR said. "The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement has reported that a traveler would need to experience 2,500 backscatter scans per year to reach what they classify as a negligible individual dose. The American College of Radiology agrees with this conclusion."

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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