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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Babayode

Why The Pushback Against Ionising Radiation Scanners Mattered

As the TSA continues to swap the Rapiscan ionising radiation scanners for the ProVision millimeter wave variety, frequent fliers can see this change of tools as a victory for privacy and health. The official line according to a Forbes magazine article (Jan 2013) is that Rapiscan could not change the offensive nude images their machines produced to something less offensive. The ProVision machines were able to do this making them an ideal replacement. Another reason the ProVision machines are ideal is the fact that they use millimeter wave technology instead of backscatter technology, which beams low level ionising radiation into the skin of the person being scanned. As a flier the reason the outcome of this conversation matters is because all fliers, especially frequent fliers need to be protected from the dangers of low dose ionising radiation.

As far back as 2010 experts in the field of radiology, biochemistry and biophysics had voiced their concerns about the dangers backscatter machines posed and the lack of independent research or evidence to the contrary. Five of them were signatories to a letter sent to the Secretary of State for the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and the Chief Scientific Officer of the Obama Administration White House. Chief among them was John Sedat Ph.D a fellow at the National Academy of Science and Professor Emeritus in Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Sedat’s resume led me to his fellowship at the National Academies of Science (NAS) and a body of research detailing the dangers of low level exposure to ionising radiation. The National Academies Press has volumes of papers putting the argument beyond any doubt, low level ionising radiation is dangerous to human health.

I emphasise this point not because it has been in any doubt but to state a fact that has been the basis for the way forward in exploring this field. As far back as September 1978 in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Dr Karl Z Morgan said ” There is no safe level of exposure and there is no dose of radiation so low that the risk of malignancy is zero…” Furthermore the celebrated nuclear physicist John Gofman said “Harm in the form of excess human cancer, occurs at all doses of ionizing radiation, down to the lowest conceivable dose and dose rate.” These well respected experts laid the groundwork of credible research upon which our understanding of the dangers of ionising radiation have been built.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA) was well aware of the added burden these machines placed on pilots when it published a letter asking its pilots to opt out of using the Rapiscan machines. Its argument was that pilots receive enough radiation in the course of flying and using the Rapiscan scanners would add more. Can’t the same be said of all fliers these days? Due to the technological age we live in we are all being exposed to more sources of ionising and non-ionising radiation. Protecting flier healthy is as good a reason to remove these scanners as any. Imagine my dismay when I came across this video trying to hoodwink us into believing that low dose ionising radiation is not that dangerous.



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