More info about full body scanner health dangers

In a previous post, we referred briefly to this New Scientist article describing the potential health risks posed by the use of full body scanners. We think it’s worth providing a bit more information about what harm scanners can or may do, so here’s a follow-up.

First of all, let’s be clear that there are two different types of scanner in common usage. One utilises x-rays, the other millimetre wavelengths. According to those who would have us believe that the x-rays are safe, the dose is so low that they don’t pass through the body – thereby rendering us safe. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, however, question this hypothesis. They say that the fact that x-rays are concentrated purely on the skin could increase the dosage received by as much as one or two orders of magnitude.

The millimetre-wave scanners emit lower-energy waves than the x-ray machines, which sounds as though it should be a recipe for greater safety. Disturbingly, however, a team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory has found that millimetre-wave radiation may damage DNA in a completely novel way, by ‘shaking’ it in a way that “unzips the two strands in DNA, interfering with the genetic machinery that keeps cells working and healthy.”

Those of us who wish to travel by plane are expected to submit to full body scanning if requested, otherwise we risk being refused access to the aircraft. Yet, quite aside from other concerns regarding effectiveness, cost and privacy, these studies demonstrate that we may be placing ourselves in danger every time we do so.

This is backwards. If government ministers want to introduce full body scanning, they ought to be required to demonstrate to us, the public, that the machines are a safe, effective use of public money. Instead, we are treated like naughty children who must be disciplined into doing as we are told. We need to reverse the burden of proof here. We need to remind them that they work for us.

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