Are Airport Scanners Worth the Risk?

There are now nearly 200 body scanning machines in about 50 U.S. airports, with 800 more on the way. The more controversial “backscatter” devices project an X-ray beam onto your body. The “millimeter wave” machines, which are thought to be less risky, bounce electromagnetic waves off your body instead.

Since there is little precedent for routinely screening so many people with X-rays, there are a lot of unknowns. One issue is that the devices haven’t been thoroughly tested. They’ve been examined for only one thing -- whether the amount of radiation emitted meets guidelines. But the committee that developed those guidelines included representatives from the companies that make the machines and the Department of Homeland Security.

In other words, according to the New York Times:

“... [T]he machines passed a test developed, in part, by the companies that manufacture them and the government agency that wants to use them ... [M]edical experts are worried that the government has not adequately evaluated the health risks of such extensive X-ray screening, particularly for children, pregnant women, cancer patients and people who are sensitive to radiation.”

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