How Much Radiation Are You Being Exposed to With New Airport Body Scanners?

The scientific unit of measurement for radiation exposure is the millisievert (mSv). The average person is exposed to 3.6 mSv of radiation a year naturally. When you get a chest X-ray, you add 0.1 mSv, or about 10 days' worth of naturally occurring radiation

When you pass through a metal detector at the airport, your exposure to radiation is barely boosted. But there are two types of enhanced body scanners. One relies on millimeter wave technology, which uses extremely high frequency radio waves to produce images. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says the scanners it has tested produce 10,000 times less energy than a cell phone transmission.

The other enhanced body scanner uses "backscatter." Low-level X-rays produce the images. The TSA says you will be exposed to as much radiation undergoing a backscatter body scan as you would during two minutes of your flight.

However, according to CBC News:

"While Health Canada says the scanners are safe, it also recommends caution when it comes to any kind of radiation exposure … [T]he agency notes: 'It is emphasized that any irradiation may involve some degree of risk … All doses should be kept as low as reasonably achievable, and any unnecessary radiation exposure must be avoided.'"

The site at also contains a nifty little tool for adding up your radiation exposure. If you've been following the news, you won't be surprised to find out that a CT scan doses you with more than 100 times the amount of radiation as a dental X-ray!

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