A Columbia University expert in radiation today confirmed that it is quite “likely” that the radiation from screening machines being installed nationwide by the Transportation Security Authority to use on airline passengers will cause cancer.
The word comes from David J. Brenner, of Columbia’s Center for Radiological Research, and whose research involves radiation biology, low dose risk estimation and radiotherapy.
There’s no use depending on TSA “research” that denied or minimized that risk because those results have been bought and paid for, he noted.
While the intrusive nature of the screening machines, which reveal an essentially nude image of a passenger for TSA agents to see, has been a hot-button topic in the news since the new screening procedures were instituted a few weeks ago, it’s just lately that the health concerns have become an issue.
WND has reported on the possible spread of infections as TSA screeners use the same latex gloves to pat down dozens, perhaps hundreds, of passengers. And WND also has reported on challenges being raised by various scientists to the TSA claims the radiation is not a danger.
Join tens of thousands of Americans in a petition demanding action against the intrusive airport screening procedures implemented by Janet Napolitano and send a letter to Congress, President Obama and others telling them exactly what you think about the issue.
Brenner undermined Department of Homeland Security statements that X-ray imaging scanners are safe by explaining the government’s research is not peer-reviewed.
“We know the radiation dose is very low, but there are different views about how low is low,” Brenner, a Ph.D., told WND.
“TSA is basing its claims for safety on research the government has commissioned,” he said, “not on peer-reviewed independent studies published in scientific journals.”
He cited a report by three scientists from Arizona that is peer-reviewed that concluded that cancer is a public health “concern” from even low doses of radiation.
The article, “The Dose from Compton Backscatter Screening,” was co-authored by Peter Rez of the Department of Physics at Arizona State University in Tempe, Robert L. Metzger of Radiation Safety Engineering, Inc., in Chandler and Kenneth Mossman of Scholl of Life Sciences at Arizona State University in Tempe.
It was accepted for publication October 7, 2010, in the Oxford “Journal of Radiation Protection Dosimetry,” a peer-reviewed journal.
“The major public health effect of concern at low doses of ionizing radiation is cancer,” Rez, Metzger and Mossman wrote. “It is not possible to determine reliably whether a radiogenic risk is present in an X-ray screened population because of the high spontaneous incidence of cancer and the multifactorial nature of disease causation.”
Rez, Metzger and Mossman also pointed out that the health risk increases if the TSA X-ray equipment malfunctions, noting that, “serious consideration should be given to the possibility of unintended and unnecessary doses to passengers due to malfunctioning equipment.”
Brenner said he questioned the FDA’s assessment that the X-ray full-body imaging machines being used by TSA meet the standard for a “general use” X-ray machine, meaning that a person would have to have 1,000 scans a year before approaching the maximum allowed dose for members of the general public.
“There is fairly convincing evidence that this statement underestimates the relevant radiation dose,” Brenner said, referring to the Rez, Metzger and Mossman work. “Trying to estimate the risks associated with these very low radiation doses involves a lot of uncertainty. We need more peer-reviewed independent scientific studies before we come to a conclusion.”
Brenner distinguished between the risk faced by an individual traveler and the risk faced by all the travelers in the nation exposed to TSA X-ray devices.
“Even if the risk associated with an individual going through a scanner one time is miniscule,” he said, “when you multiply that miniscule risk by say two or three hundred to correspond to the potential annual usage of a commercial air crew or a very frequent flier, the estimated risk may still be small, but it is no longer ‘miniscule.'”
His greatest worry is the overall population risk.
“The bigger concern is indeed the overall population risk,” he argued. “To illustrate generally what I mean here, suppose some activity involves a very small cancer risk, and a very large number of people are exposed to the risk, then the chances are that some of them would get cancer as a result of that activity, even though the individual risk is very small.”
Brennan did not minimize his concern the TSA X-ray scanners could cause cancer in some air travelers exposed to their use.
“If most air travelers went through these X-ray scanners, then it is indeed quite likely that there would be some number of cancers produced by the radiation,” he concluded.
“Skin cancers are a particular concern, because the low-energy X-rays used in these scanners deposit a significant fraction of their total dose in the skin,” he said. “In general, children are more sensitive than adults to radiation, and that’s true for the endpoint of radiation-related skin cancer too.”
WND’s previous reporting documented the TSA’s opinion that the radiation from its security scans is equivalent to “two minutes of flying on an airplane.”
Rez, however, had warned MSNBC viewers that while the risk of getting a fatal cancer may be tiny, it’s about equal to the probability an airplane will get blown up by a terrorist.
He argues simply that either way, dead is dead.
Further, scientists from the University of California San Francisco have written a letter to the White House warning that the scanners present – above and beyond the risks to the general population – “potential serious health risks” to certain segments of society, such as the elderly and the pregnant.
“There is good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations,” say the cosigners of the letter, which include experts in biochemistry, imaging, X-rays and cancer research. “We are unanimous in believing that the potential health consequences need to be rigorously studied before these scanners are adopted.”
The TSA says the scanners have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the Commerce Department’s National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.