Study: Low Radiation Risk From Backscatter Scanning Machines?

A device is set up to measure the amount of radiation emitted from a backscatter scanning machine. Photograph courtesy of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.


A report released last month by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine suggests that passengers absorb less radiation from backscatter scanner machines at airport security checkpoints than they do while standing in line at the airport waiting to be scanned and would need to be scanned greater than 22,500 times — you would need to pass through an airport security checkpoint twice per day every day for almost 31 years to receive that many scans — to reach the standard maximum safety yearly dose limit as determined by both the American National Standards Institute and the Health Physics Society.
The 24-page report documents the results of a supposed independent study pertaining to the Rapiscan Secure 1000 SP backscatter scanner machines — the same devices which were recently removed from service by the Transportation Security Administration.
Passengers receive radiation from other sources in addition to scanners at airport security checkpoints — such as when the aircraft is near “dark lightning” during a flight, for example. In fact, the report claims that “the dose to a standard man from the Rapiscan Secure 1000 SP is equivalent to 12 seconds of naturally occurring dose during an average flight.”
The definition of a “standard man” is someone whose height is five feet ten inches tall — me, for example — who weighs in at 161.4 pounds.
Many FlyerTalk members have long been concerned about the potential risk of being exposed to radiation as a result of being scanned by backscatter machines — while other FlyerTalk members have long been concerned about simply being exposed while being scanned…
…but some FlyerTalk members are skeptical at best about this study. For example, FlyerTalk member ibdsux opines that “The independence of this group is dubious. AAPM is headquartered in the DC area for a reason – they are government and big corporate shills. Who butters their bread to the tune of $10 million plus per annum? A quote directly from their website:

“‘To best represent medical physics, the AAPM has worked to establish a close and cooperative working relationship with numerous government bodies and organizations including the Congress, federal and state agencies, related professional societies and a range of medical providers, corporations and suppliers.’

“Wow, that’s a truly independent bunch.”
FlyerTalk member Schmurrr posts “Um, why should I be irradiated AT ALL by a device that violates my Constitutional rights, generates too many false positives to be effective, and was purchased en masse without public input or a real cost-benefit analysis? What does your ‘independent’ study say about that?”
However, FlyerTalk member TSORon — an employee of the Transportation Security Administration — counters that “Standing in your house you get as much radiation in 1.8 minutes as a single scan by the backscatter systems.”
What do you think? If the backscatter scanner devices returned to service at airport security checkpoints in the United States — of which there is a possibility of that happening in the future — would you feel safe? Are there other issues which are as important as safety?

3 thoughts on “Study: Low Radiation Risk From Backscatter Scanning Machines?”

  1. Dianne47 says:

    I’m sure the machines they tested were properly calibrated before the experiment. I doubt that machines at airports are EVER calibrated. I won’t go through one of these machines, period.

  2. UAConcorde says:

    TSORon can go f himself then, Im amazed everyday how much lies TSA tell me, a biomedical engineer, everyday. I was once told its not backscatters xrays, its radio wave. what kind of radio does he listen to? ones withwavelength in the milimeteres apparently

  3. CDKing says:

    TSORon gets paid to lie so i’m not sure anyone really cares what he thinks

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