Full-body scanners: are there health risks?



Airport security the world over has been tightened even more than usual due to last December’s terrorist attack attempt. One of the hottest issues in improving security is the use of the so-called full body scan. In the US, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is deploying the scanners at security check points all over the country.

What do the scanners do?

The full body scanner produce images of the body which are anatomically accurate and can therefore detect hidden objects and substances hidden underneath people’s clothes.

What are the possible concerns over the scanners?

How does the scanner work and does it have adverse effects on human health? According to the American College of Radiology (ACR), the TSA has deployed two types of scanning systems, namely:

The ACR further reports thewre is currently no evidence indicating that one of the technologies used in the TSA scanners may present significant biological effects on those who are screened. Here are figures given by the ACR:

  • One hundred (100) backscatter scans per year is needed to reach what the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement (NCRP) classify as a Negligible Individual Dose.
  • Based on these measurements, the ACR estimates that it will take 1,000 such scans in a year to reach the effective dose equal to one standard chest x-ray.
  • In fact, an airline passenger is actually exposed to more radiation during the flight than at security checks at the airport.

It is therefore safe to assume there is very little cancer and other health risks involved in the use of full body scanners.

Considering the recent concerns about cancer-causing radiations produced by mobile phones, mammograms, and CT scans, devices which are very useful and are vent meant to save lives, these assurances from the ACR will help passenger as well as security personnel alike.

A poll conducted by the USA Today in early January revealed that 78% of travellers were agreeable to getting a full body scan. 20% were not, and 2% had no opinion.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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