by Alexander Frantzis
(NaturalNews) Ever since Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff made a fortune selling his naked body scanners to the federal government in 2010, health and privacy concerns over these devices have been both repeatedly raised and in turn categorically denied.
One of the less known but crucially important issues with the body scanning equipment lies in the fact they are not externally shielded. This means that a large portion of the radiation released to scan the individual passes through into the immediate vicinity of machine. While exposing passengers waiting in line to an unnecessary radiological hazard that sensitive individuals may notice, there has been far more detrimental effect to TSA workers manning the machines.
For instance, through the FOIA, Union representatives discovered a cancer cluster amongst TSA workers linked to the body scanners in the Boston Logan international airport. Records showed "a large number of workers falling victim to stroke, cancer and heart disease". Typically it takes years for exposure to an environmental toxin to produce these conditions, not the short period found here.
In light of these observations, the Ranking Senator on the Homeland Security Committee is poised to introduce legislation this week to remedy the situation.
"Our bill would require the independent study on the possible health effects of the x-ray radiation emitted by some of the scanning machines and give airline passengers, especially those passengers in sensitive groups, such as pregnant women, clear notice of their ability to choose another screening option in lieu of exposure to ionizing radiation," Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) told The Register in an email.
Previous, not legally binding attempts to argue for testing to safeguard passengers and workers have been dismissed by the TSA or met with broken promises. A brief sampling:
* In November 2011, following a European ban on the machines TSA head John Pistole promised the senate he would commission independent research on the safety risks associated with radiation firing body scanner. Two weeks, he backtracked saying "further study was unnecessary at this time."
* In response to the Boston cancer clusters, the TSA promised to provide each worker with a radiation dosimeter to measure their exposure, then downplayed the issue and refused to issue dosimeters.
* Numerous studies conducted by prestigious institutions including Johns Hopkins, Columbia University, the University of California, and the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety, warned that the devices will lead to an increase in cancers. The TSA denied each and even claimed the John's Hopkins results actually proved safety of the machines.
There is ample evidence strongly arguing against these scanners. The DHS however is getting ready to expand the use of X-ray scanning machines to the US border, despite already having well functioning, radiation free millimeter-wave-machines.
"I have urged TSA to move toward only radiation-free screening technology," Collins said in a statement to ProPublica. "In the meantime, an independent study is needed to protect the public and to determine what technology is worthy of taxpayer dollars."
The Chertoff Group meanwhile has branched out towards raising awareness of our vulnerability to bio terrorism. Interestingly, they also invested in BioNeutral, a biotech start-up based in New Jersey that is developing technology to combat dangerous microorganisms.
Sources for this article include: