shut up and scan

Here’s a piece about the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which says it’s got evidence that the Department of Homeland Security has failed to properly evaluate the level of risk from airport body scanners.

According to this report EPIC says they have obtained, through a FOIA  report, emails and other documentation to show that  TSA staff have been concerned that a large number of workers have been falling victim to cancer, strokes and heart disease.

TSA’s response;

“Because TSA systems comply with federal regulations, the increased risk of developing radiation-induced cancer in later life is extremely small, no greater than other risks people routinely accept in their daily lives”.

I was wondering when this might become an issue. In my dentists’ office everyone runs for cover when they snap a photo.
Yeah, not the same equipment, less radiation per photo and all that, but the sheer volume of traffic these TSA workers are dealing with has got to make a difference surely?
Too early to tell from this kind of report how much substance there is in this story, but my instinct is that there’s no way using these machines day in and day out can be harmless.

15 Responses to shut up and scan

  1. Cochise says:

    What happened to dominionism ? I just went to get my spurs on, and now it’s gone! I really enjoyed what bookfan had to say about it. There’s a lot of meat left on that bone

    Have you seen those scanner people? They don’t look to happy, I’ve never seen one smile. Not sure if it’s pulling wet diapers off 95 year old women lookin for bombs or x-rays or what.

  2. gunnison says:

    What happened to dominionism ?

    Working on it, grasshopper, working on it.
    I gotta mix things up, you know how I am…

  3. gryff says:

    TSA staff have been concerned that a large number of workers have been falling victim to cancer, strokes and heart disease.

    I can not see the radiation having an impact on the incidence of these medical problems as all the conditions take quite along time to develop. How long have the scanners been in airports? Not very long is my impression

    In fact the only one of these medical conditions which I could see having a potential link would be cancer as the TSA response recognises.

    Here is an article from the The Radiation Safety Institute of Canada (RSIC) on airport screening:

    Airport screening and backscatter x-ray scanners – should you be concerned?

    To quote fron the last paragraph:

    There are many factors that affect the dose, but a low estimate is that for every hour flown in a commercial airliner, passengers receive a dose of 3 µSv per hour. So, one hour of flight is roughly equivalent to 30 backscatter x-ray scans.

    While it concerns passenger exposure, think about what the exposure of pilots and flight crew is likely to be? (There is a suggestion that pilots may have a slightly increased longterm risk of one specific type of cancer.)

    That said, for worker peace of mind studies with dosiometer badges could help alleviate worries – but of course add to the public’s antagonism to scanners.

    gryff :)

    PS Note rhe membership of the Board Of Governors of the RSIC – at least four are union officials.

  4. bookfan says:


    Would you be an absolute treasure please and introduce me to Cochise?

    Is Cochise an old MT Cif hand? If so, I do not recognise him/her.

    Is Cochise not an old Indian tribe’s name connected to the Appache? If so, this is very very interesting.

    Anyway, please do the honours, so that I know who is addressing me or whom I might be addressing.

    Mille merci.

  5. gunnison says:


    Would you be an absolute treasure please and introduce me to Cochise?

    bookfan, may I present my friend Cochise, who lives in Arizona? – Cochise, this is my friend bookfan, who lives in England.

    booky – I’m sure you understand what a disaster it could be if I were to start answering questions from one commenter about another. I just can’t go there, even though in this instance it would probably be harmless enough.
    Feel free to direct your question to Cochise though, now that you have been properly introduced.

  6. gunnison says:

    agree it’s too early to draw big conclusions. Here’s some snips from EPIC’s release on the topic;

    “The documents include agency emails, radiation studies, memoranda of agreement concerning radiation testing programs, and results of some radiation tests. One document set reveals that even after TSA employees identified cancer clusters possibly linked to radiation exposure, the agency failed to issue employees dosimeters …… Another document indicates that the DHS mischaracterized the findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, stating that NIST “affirmed the safety” of full body scanners. The documents obtained by EPIC reveal that NIST disputed that characterization and stated that the Institute did not, in fact, test the devices.”

  7. bookfan says:


    Thank you. I really really meant if ‘we’ knew Cochise from Cif. That is all.

    I suppose that you are trying to say, that Cochise is a stranger to the Cif crowd. In that case nice to meet Cochise.

  8. gryff says:

    Gunny I read the EPIC stuff., and even looked for more detail. From what I can gather, the cancer clusters possibly linked to radiation exposure are just associated with one airport – Boston. Why not LA or Chicago or NY?

    There is a report of a discussion of the issue here between radiation experts David J. Brenner and David A. Schauer had in the April issue of Radiology:

    Not Even Experts Agree on Safety of Airport Scanners

    What they do agree on is that millimeter wave technology scanners would be preferable to backscatter X-ray technology.

    Brenner, who does worry about employee exposure in the above link, is also quoted in Time-Healthland :

    Did Airport Scanners Give Boston TSA Agents Cancer?

    “latency period between radiation exposure and a radiation-induced cancer” is generally years, not months.

    I really think that EPIC have over-egged the pudding with their claims about cancer, stroke and heart disease. It might be expected if there was an increased risk of cancer from the X-ray radiation that it would show itself as a cluster of skin cancers – unfortunately EPIC has not released any data that I can find. (Airline pilots, who I mentioned in my first comment on this post, have about twice the expected rate of skin cancer possibly due to cosmic radiation exposure – but even there, there maybe confounding issues.)

    On a related topic, I see, sadly, that they are finding Caesium and Iodine isotopes in children around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that failed.

    gryff :)

  9. somecrazysheepdog says:

    Cochise was an Apache Indian chief. Perhaps one of the first, if not the first, western movie that portrayed a sympathetic view of the Indians was Broken Arrow, starring Jimmy Stewart, focused on Cochise and the Apache wars.

  10. bookfan says:

    Thank you very much, SomeCrazySheepDog.

  11. gryff says:

    This was just posted in the Guardian:

    British government’s plan to play down Fukushima

    And is the kind of thing that bothers me – and does nothing to improve my trust in government and business.

    gryff :)

  12. gunnison says:

    Hi gryff
    Agree about the EPIC thing – as I said in the original post it’s to soon to say how much substance there is to it all. I see no reason to assume the relevant agencies are any more on the ball with this than they were at that coal mine that blew up, or on the health issues surrounding the 9-11 cleanup personnel – with whom they are still playing diversionary games.
    But you’re right, we don’t know wtf.

    btw … I sent you an email re Fukashima… I’m having fits trying to stay connected today. Crazy weather.

  13. Jabsco says:

    Sorry for the threadjack everyone, MadameMax asked for my email so I wanted to hop over here to give it.

    Everyone else can help too… if you know musicians who are on YouTube with original music, I am starting a business that will monetize and promote them. If you know someone who might be interested, you can send them my way.

    Best regards.

  14. gunnison says:

    no problema Jabs

    Your check is in the mail, right?

  15. Di - Ohso says:

    Nice to see you on here. I hope your new business goes well for you. It sounds like a good idea.

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