Body scanner health risks - what they don’t tell us

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Published to Health Risks on Sep 30, 2010

A security measure that's perfectly harmless according to political representatives, scanner manufacturers and government/medical experts interviewed by the mainstream media. Comparisons are made to the dosage of radiation received by passengers in flight and to those received during a full body scan. Evidence provided shows the annual safe limit for radiation exposure and how the scanners fall within the figures shown. Reassurances are given with regards to the safety of the machines and how staff are fully trained in their operation.

What possible concerns or objections could exist after such expert and consistent evidence? Quite a few as it turns out.

Unzip your DNA

Independent research into terahertz waves, the frequency range used by millimetre wave scanning devices, has brought up some troubling finds. A study by Boian S. Alexandrov and colleagues at the Center for Nonlinear studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico showed that terahertz waves could "...unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication." In simple terms - something that may damage DNA and therefore present a risk to human health.

This risk is magnified by the astonishing fact that no safe level of exposure to terahertz radiation has been established. Nor have any clinical studies been undertaken to assess the long term impact on human health of multiple, accumulated exposures to terahertz waves. Yet these devices are being deployed at airports across North America, the United Kingdom and other countries without any reliable evidence as to their safety.

The study concludes stating that: "Based on our results we argue that a specific terahertz radiation exposure may significantly affect the natural dynamics of DNA, and thereby influence intricate molecular processes involved in gene expression and DNA replication."

Skin Scancer

US scientists have also questioned the safety of airport body scanning equipment stating that the radiation risk from these devices has been dangerously underestimated. David Agard, a biochemist at the University of California said that the radiation is delivered at low energy beam levels with most of the dose concentrated in the skin and underlying tissue. Agard warns that "Ionizing radiation such as the X-rays used in these scanners have the potential to induce chromosome damage, and that can lead to cancer."

David Brenner, head of Columbia University's centre for Radiological Research reaffirms this saying that the concentration of the beam on the skin means the radiation dose is actually 20 times higher than the official estimate. He goes on to say that basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, would be the most likely risk from those sensitive to radiation from the airport body scanners.

Of particular concern is the risk posed to children as they are more vulnerable to radiation damage, due to more cell division occurring than an adult, and any radiation induced mutation could contribute to cancer in their adult years.

Blind fear

Experiments conducted by Japanese researchers on rabbits into the biological effects of millimeter wave bands on the eye resulted in the following findings: iris haemorrhage, ocular inflammation, corneal and endothelial injuries and blepharadema. Even if one wanted to question the study with regards to the relevance to human subjects and the proximity, strength and duration of radiation used the findings are still significant in demonstrating the potential harm presented by millimetre wave radiation in body scanning devices.

When no long term clinical trials have been conducted to determine the safety of airport body scanner devices why is the public expected to submit to being scanned when selected? Why when independent research demonstrates the understated dangers present through use of these devices is the FDA and other public agencies not recalling full body scanning equipment from airports? Can we expect to see a cancer spike a decade or so from now forms the cumulative exposure to these devices? Will we see lawsuits being brought against transport authorities responsible for using these machines and the scanner manufacturers as a result of potential health problems that may arise in the not too distant future?

A final word on the subject from John William Gofman, former Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at University of California and a participant on the Manhattan Project, on the subject of ionising radiation, "We can now say, there cannot be a safe dose of radiation. There is no safe threshold. If this truth is known, then any permitted radiation is a permit to commit murder."

Sources

Tags: airportsecurity, DNA, mutagenic, Radiation, Terahertz

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