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Radiation scientists agree TSA naked body scanners could cause breast cancer and sperm mutations


The news about the potential health dangers of the TSA's naked body scanners just keep getting worse. An increasing number of doctors and scientists are going public with their warnings about the health implications of subjecting yourself to naked body scanners.
Scientists from the University of California, San Francisco wrote a letter to Obama's science and technology adviser John Holdren regarding these body scans. Even though it was written in April of this year, this letter has received increased publicity lately due to the TSA's sudden expansion of naked body scanners in airports as well as the agency's arrogant insistence that such machines will soon be used at bus stations, railway stations and other entrance points for mass transportation.
Here are the highlights of the letter with comments and explanations:
"We are writing to call your attention to serious concerns about the potential health risks of the recently adopted whole body backscatter X-ray airport security scanners. This is an urgent situation as these X-ray scanners are rapidly being implemented as a primaryscreening step for all air travel passengers."
Translation: The naked body scanners may be dangerous to your health.
"Our overriding concern is the extent to which the safety of this scanning device hasbeen adequately demonstrated. This can only be determined by a meeting of an impartial panel of experts that would include medical physicists and radiation biologists at which all of the available relevant data is reviewed."
Translation: The safety of these naked body scanners has never been demonstrated, and especially not by an independent panel of qualified scientists.
"The physics of these X-rays is very telling: the X-rays are Compton-Scattering off outer molecule bonding electrons and thus inelastic (likely breaking bonds)."
Translation: The ionizing radiation emitted by these devices can alter your DNA.
"Unlike other scanners, these new devices operate at relatively low beam energies (28keV). The majority of their energy is delivered to the skin and the underlying tissue. Thus, 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."
Translation: The danger of these devices is significantly higher than what might be assumed from the TOTAL radiation emissions. This is why those who claim "you get more radiation just from flying" are flat-out wrong in their conclusions.
"This comparison is very misleading: both the air travel cosmic ray exposure and chest X-rays have much higher X-ray energies and the health consequences are appropriately understood in terms of the whole body volume dose. In contrast, these new airport scanners are largely depositing their energy into the skin and immediately adjacent tissue, and since this is such a small fraction of body weight / volume, possibly by one to two orders of magnitude, the real dose to the skin is now high."
Translation: This is a further explanation of why the ionizing radiation from the naked body scanners may pose a much higher risk of cancer (two orders of magnitude higher!) than what might be assumed from the total radiation emissions.
"In addition, it appears that real independent safety data do not exist. A search,ultimately finding top FDA radiation physics staff, suggests that the relevant radiationquantity, the Flux [photons per unit area and time (because this is a scanning device)]has not been characterized. Instead an indirect test (Air Kerma) was made thatemphasized the whole body exposure value, and thus it appears that the danger is lowwhen compared to cosmic rays during airplane travel and a chest X-ray dose.
In summary, if the key data (flux-integrated photons per unit values) were available, itwould be straightforward to accurately model the dose being deposited in the skin and adjacent tissues using available computer codes, which would resolve the potentialconcerns over radiation damage."
Translation: The FDA screwed up the safety testing by assuming the emitted radiation was distributed across the entire body rather than focused on the skin.
Here are ten additional concerns raised by these scientists in their letter:
#1) Cancer in senior citizens - The large population of older travelers, greater than 65 years of age, is particularly at risk from the mutagenic effects of the X-rays based on the known biology of melanocyte aging.
#2) Breast cancer - A fraction of the female population is especially sensitive to mutagenesis-provoking radiation leading to breast cancer. Notably, because these women, who have defects in DNA repair mechanisms, are particularly prone to cancer, X-ray mammograms are not performed on them. The dose to breast tissue beneath the skin represents a similar risk.
#3) White blood cells being irradiated - Blood (white blood cells) perfusing the skin is also at risk.
#4) HIV and cancer patients - The population of immunocompromised individuals -- HIV and cancer patients is likely to be at risk for cancer induction by the high skin dose.
#5) Radiation risk to children - The risk of radiation emission to children and adolescents does not appear to have been fully evaluated.
#6) Pregnant women - The policy towards pregnant women needs to be defined once the theoretical risks to the fetus are determined.
#7 Sperm mutations - Because of the proximity of the testicles to skin, this tissue is at risk for sperm mutagenesis.
#8 Radiation effects on cornea and thymus - Have the effects of the radiation on the cornea and thymus been determined?
#9 Problems with the machine - There are a number of 'red flags' related to the hardware itself. Because this device can scan a human in a few seconds, the X-ray beam is very intense. Any glitch in power at any point in the hardware (or more importantly in software) that stops the device could cause an intense radiation dose to a single spot on the skin.
#10 Higher radiation for the groin? - Given the recent incident (on December 25th, 2009), how do we know whether the manufacturer or TSA, seeking higher resolution, will scan the groin area more slowly leading to a much higher total dose?
None of these ten concerns are being answered by the TSA and its head John Pistole. The attitude from the TSA on these scanners, in fact, is downright belligerent,  treating Americans as terrorists and threatening to arrest and detain individuals who refuse to be scanned and groped.
Dr. Iverson's Comment
I was coming back from my interview in San Diego and I was “chosen” to go through the body scanner. I politely declined and was reacted with a look of disgust by the female TSA officer and a shout across the room, “male assist, male assist! “ Interestingly, I didn’t gain any support from my fellow travelers. They as well looked at me and shook their head or rolled their eyes. 
“What did I do?” I thought to myself. “So I don’t want a body full of radiation. Is that a crime? Why are all these people so willing to just follow the sheep?”
I stood there waiting patiently for approximately 5 minutes as I watched 4 other people pass through the scanners and on their way past me as I continued to wait. 
I was finally greeted by my friendly TSA officer who kindly said, “over this way sir,” directing me in to a corner position out of the way of the “good travelers.” 
“I don’t blame you,” he said to me. “I wouldn’t do it either and I can’t believe that more people don’t decline.”
“Well how many of these pat-downs have you done today?” I asked curiously.
“Oh, you are only the second person.” He responded.
“What? Are you kidding me? Only two people per day are requesting to be pat down?”
“Oh yeah, sometimes none.” He replied.
He continued with his procedure explaining every move before he made it. The entire process was very methodical and not to mention time-consuming and invasive. I had fingers in every crevice and every elastic band in my body; very thorough indeed.  The pat-down took approximately 10 minutes or more and add that to the waiting time resulted in a 15 minute procedure.
I thanked the officer for his professionalism and told him as a physician I just could not support a measure that I would personally tell my own patients to avoid. I told him that a frequent traveler would never know if they are inhibiting their immune system from disease lurking in their body. Ionizing radiation is proven to cause cancer and that was not a risk worth taking.
He smiled as said, “I can’t agree with you more, I’m actually quitting this job soon.”
Long story short: Go early to the airport. The pat down is not only a real personal experience; it is also a real long one!
Safe Travels~
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