DHS Agrees To Outside Study On Cancer Risks Of Airport Body Scanners

Aliya Sternstein | Nextgov | December 14, 2012

The Transportation Security Administration has tapped the National Academy of Sciences to probe the health risks of body scans to passengers and pilots after years of pressure from civil liberties groups and Congress. The study is limited to radiation and safety testing, and will not examine the privacy implications of the X-ray machines, according to a new contracting notice.

An academy committee will review the Homeland Security Department’s current procedures for measuring radiation doses people receive from the technology systems, along with previous studies. It is unclear whether the experts are expected to report on government tests or outside experiments. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has taken legal action to obtain DHS records on TSA safety analyses and third-party studies.

The academy will assess “whether exposures comply with applicable health and safety standards” for passengers and employees, the Homeland Security officials state. In 2010, the Allied Pilots Association urged its members to refuse body scans partly due to scientific results showing the machines might cause cancer...

Open Health News' Take: 

Finally, after three years of refusing to provide scientific evidence as to the safety of the X-ray and millimiter wave machines used to scan passengers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has finally relented to public pressure. Unfortunately, the study is specifically limited "to review previous studies." In other words, the TSA is going to allow the National Academy of Sciences to carry out the equivalent of peer-review on the secret studies it has steadfastly refused to release for more than three years. The TSA will still not allow independent studies of the health-risks the scanners pose to passengers, pilots, and TSA personnel. This situation continues to be a disgrace and shows why all government research related to health and safety should be released under open access before any other steps are taken. Roger A. Maduro, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Open Health News