Because of our reluctance to take a more commonsense approach to airport screening, fliers now have two choices: groping of their privates by the TSA, or exposure to full-body X-ray scanners that not only amount to a visual strip-search, but also subject passengers (especially those who fly often) to worrisome levels of radiation. We have been reassured that the scanners pose no more radiation risk than, say, cosmic-ray exposure during flight, but in a letter to White House science czar John Holdren, a group of experts from UCSF explain that the hazard is far greater than we are led to believe.
The reason is that these scanners employ a type of radiation that is designed not to penetrate deeply into the body, but rather to be scattered by the skin. This means that, in contrast to cosmic rays, whose effects are distributed throughout the body’s volume, the radiation dosage at the surface of the body is “orders of magnitude” higher. For example, melanocytes in the skin — that’s where melanoma develops — appear to be getting a good blast from these devices.
Here’s the letter.
(Hat tip: Dennis Mangan.)