Journalism in the Public Interest

Scientists Cast Doubt on TSA Tests of Full-Body Scanners

The Transportation Security Administration is confident that its full-body X-ray scanners are medically safe, but a group of scientists with expertise in cancer and radiation say the evidence made public to support those safety claims is unreliable.

« Return to Story

Sort by: Oldest Newest  <  1 2


May 17, 2011, 3:41 a.m.

I just read every comment and they are ALL vehemently against the TSA. Not one comment supports TSA. This is a wake up call folks. Our children are being molested by perverts, our families are being irradiated with cancer, our privacy is being usurped and we are being treated like prisoners by our so-called government servants. There are millions of us and so few of them and they know it. Lets all do our part and fight this BS. They would have to pay someone to say anything good about them.

Mike Hummell

May 17, 2011, 3:46 a.m.

Last Sunday (5/15/11) at 8am ,  I had my first full body scan at Cleveland airport.  I thought I was going thru metal detector,  but later realized it was the full body scanner.  They don’t tell you what it is.  You have to realize what it is.  I didn’t think much about it until later at home when I laid down for a nap.  Lying there, my skin felt like I had a sunburn—and I felt that all over body, from head to toe.  Now it is early Tuesday morning, and I STILL feel the “burn”.  That can’t be good.  Hopefully it will diminish over time.

I don’t know why there’s no option to just strip down to your underwear.  Wouldn’t bother me,  and then there’d be no need to scan me to see under my clothes, as there would be no clothes, except briefs. 

Now that I know what the machine looks like (note:  if they make you put your hands above your head, scanning is imminent),  I’ll request a pat down instead.  Or just remove most clothes and put in the carry-on scanner queue.

They ought to warn you, but they don’t.

Burning up,

Marc McIntosh

May 17, 2011, 4:14 a.m.

Shut up you hooligans and rabblerousers! Line UP per der Homeland Security Department und Transportation Security or else you vill be deemed an unfriendly and uncooperative citizen! Radiation is GOOD for you, do you think ve vould LIE to you? Thinking ve vould LIE could be considered an unfriendly and uncooperative act! Comply and there vill be no further difficulties.

Now show us your JUNK.


May 17, 2011, 4:59 a.m.

If your one of the six cancers these mahchines cause, I wonder how trivial you would think it was!

don paul

May 17, 2011, 6:08 a.m.

Our family stopped flying for over a year now because of the scanners and groping . Thousands of dollars stayed in Costa Rica that would have been spent with the airlines and businesses in Orlando Fl. 

don paul

Spanky T Smackme

May 17, 2011, 6:46 a.m.

Sure you can trust the government, just ask any Indian.

They have no PROBABLE CAUSE or search warrant to check every citizen. It is nothing but a prelude to a gestapo like police state.

Next we will need a national ID card, and have to show it on demand.

Jim Senter

May 17, 2011, 6:58 a.m.

The REAL risk isn’t commercial airplanes at all. The real risk is civil aviation—with unguarded airports in every county, where a plane can be stolen, filled with explosives and flown to the nearest nuclear power plant, where the waste storage pools sit in unarmored buildings.

And let’s not even TALK about the highways and all the rolling bombs there—trucks with highly explosive and poisonous cargoes.  If al Qaeda needed to hit us again, which they DON’T, they would have. We are very busy fulfilling their war aims, and the TSA is a big part of that.

Nope, the TSA is fighting the last war, so to speak.

jim Senter

May 17, 2011, 7:07 a.m.

Or park a car on the side of the road with a white T shirt rolled up in the window, with a bomb in the trunk timed to go off at rush hour.  The competence and expertise of the Fatherland Insecurity Dept. isn’t what has prevented this from happening, that’s for sure.


May 17, 2011, 7:15 a.m.

Of course the USG is lying about the radiation dosage and safety of these things.  There are huge contracts at stake.  Seriously, who would believe them?  After all the medical experiments the USG has conducted on unsuspecting people inside the country and out, on our own troops, the FBI’s Raptor program, the COINTELPRO evidence planting and assasination program.

Get real.  Of course we’re living in the real world and sometimes governments are going to do things, like starting wars based upon lies, assassinations, etc.  I can accept that, but I’m not going to believe what the people who do those things tell me.  That’s just dumb.

Karl Magnus

May 17, 2011, 7:16 a.m.

NOW they tell us?
For a professional agitator to claim that HIS administration will be THE most transparent evah, President ObeyMe certainly has kept a LOT of important information from the public.
Good job, ProPub.


Haiku Guy

May 17, 2011, 7:42 a.m.

An Emergency Stop
Is nothing but a cruel joke.
They would cook you first.

If the TSA is relying on the one of their crack staff to recognize a problem and react by pressing the Emergency Stop button to protect a traveler, they might as well not have a button at all.  Even under the most favorable assumptions, that process is going to take fifteen seconds, most likely a lot longer.  That is way too much time to be exposed to a stopped beam.


May 17, 2011, 8:52 a.m.

I noted that none of the TSA agents operating and/or working around the luggage x-ray machines wear film badges or other dosimetry devices. This seems a major violation of OSHA regulations. None of the TSA agents I have talked with have ever indicated any training in radiation safety and seem oblivious to the hazards of ionizing radiation, either nuclear or radio frequency (RF).

Max Headroom

May 17, 2011, 10:22 a.m.

millimetre scanners unravel DNA there was an article posted some time ago discussing this. What i’m shocked about is how the fact of exposing humans or animal life to radiation for security reasons is being whitewashed as being ok and that only 6 cases of cancer are expected from many scans a year. Human or animal exposure to radiation should only be used for medical diagnostic and therapeutical purposes anything else is a waste of the exposure and radiation dose received. People in this country have been arrested (practicing medicine without a licence assault with a deadly weapon and or battery)and given jail sentences for things like giving their own prescription medication(much less harmful than cummulitive radiation exposure) to treat their friends from the flu.

sterling haynes

May 17, 2011, 1:59 p.m.

How about the scanners effects on metal. I just have a new knee weighing almost a pound, Does my titanium knee absorb radiation? Many of my friends have had four joints [knees and hips] replaced and wear pacemakers too. My new knee and patella can be felt just beneath the skin.

Ken Chevy

May 17, 2011, 7:38 p.m.

Quote:“Smith-Bindman, who has testified before Congress about excessive radiation from medical scans, studied the TSA reports and said she wasn’t concerned about the airport X-rays.

The risks are “truly trivial,” she wrote in an article [14] for the Archives of Internal Medicine. A passenger would have to undergo 50 airport scans to reach the level of a dental X-ray, 1,000 for a chest X-ray, and 4,000 for a mammogram.”

Ah, THAT is true, but only IF the data the TSA furnishes.  I wonder WHY she assumes the data the TSA furnished is accurate?  Someone PAID her to accept the fact it is accurate?  There are too many people who want independent study done of the machines to see if TSA is lying, so they want an actual machine like they are using at the airports for testing.

TSA tells them “Go to hell and that the testers would learn things about the machines that dishonest people could use to their advantage.”

I’m all for doing it the way Israel does it with profiling and dogs.  MUCH cheaper, and MUCH better results.
051711 1738


May 17, 2011, 9:09 p.m.

The government is using air travelers as human guineau pigs just as they’ve used prisoners and minorities in the past for experimentation.

Howard Gunn

May 17, 2011, 10:04 p.m.

I have read the excerpts from 66 of the nuttiest people in the US. I find it comical that the Internet enables your babble to find a way to inject your brand of lunacy into the discourse on any subject.

Your comments are truly trivial and reflect your paranoia and lack of understanding of the security problem or how to deal with it. Thank you for the laughs. To quote the article:

Smith-Bindman, who has testified before Congress about excessive radiation from medical scans, studied the TSA reports and said she wasn’t concerned about the airport X-rays.

The risks are “truly trivial,” she wrote in an article for the Archives of Internal Medicine. A passenger would have to undergo 50 airport scans to reach the level of a dental X-ray, 1,000 for a chest X-ray, and 4,000 for a mammogram.

The comments about the article are less than “truly trivial” and I think your comments reflect a unique paranoid disorder affecting a portion of sick Americans that need treatment and sympathy.

Howard Gunn

Ken Chevy

May 17, 2011, 10:28 p.m.

So, you are telling everyone that if someone in cahoots with the government is the ONLY one furnishing technical information on a machine they are using that YOU believe the info they give out is correct without allowing uninvolved parties to test the machines and see if they produce the same info?
And that you believe someone like Smith-Bindman who runs her mouth without asking for info from at LEAST two different groups, of which at least one is NOT connected with the government or TSA in any way?

You sound like a person who voted for BHO.  Those people, at least a very large percentage, seem to believe anything the government tells them, EVEN if they can see it is a lie, they still believe it because the government told them WHAT to believe.

You don’t think it is a good idea to be at least a little paranoid when we have a President and a large part of the government trying to destroy America?

Ah, yes.  Now YOU are one of those “nuts” who commented on the article.  Welcome to the club, Mr Nut.


May 17, 2011, 10:55 p.m.

I have been in medical imaging for over 40 years and it’s a know fact in the scientific community that soft radiation such a s what is used in these scanners causes skin cancer, cataracts, thyroid tumors and is the most dangerous of all of the ionizing radiation. Most of the dose is absorbed by the outer layer of your skin and causes the cells to mutate into a sarcoma or cancerous cell. When I was a kid they used to have x-ray machines in shoe stores so people could see their feet inside shoes. There was a study done in the New England Medical Journal that tallied up the deaths caused these machines. How much x-ray radiation is safe? NONE. Google it in.

Unsafe at any RADS

May 18, 2011, 10:17 a.m.

Where is Ralph “the Trial Lawyer” Nader when you need em.

Sending a letter to Obama complaining about Security Scanners would be like sending a letter to Jimmy Hoffa complaining about the Mob.
The prez flew the head of one of the scanner companies around in Air Farce None. During Bush many airports already had Multi-Million Dollar Sniffers ordered under and blessed by same Federal Government with the Department of Fatherland Security and the (formerly) Tagalog Speaking Agency [aka Dems lets unionize the mostly Filipino security guards]. With the changing of the Crooks in the District of Criminals, a new group of bandits have to bring in their wares and political bennies.

Ralf Houser

May 18, 2011, 11:42 a.m.

Auch… “the available models predict that the backscatters would lead to only six cancers over the course of a lifetime among the approximately 100 million people who fly every year”

isn’t one death from cancer enough… I hope I am not the unlucky bastard. So, we have Islamic Terrorists and TSA and all of this just to fly from point A to B.

Kad Chon

May 18, 2011, 5:05 p.m.

Follow the money? Follow this…

Where does the money come from that allows the TSA (and the other parts of the US government apparatus) to function as it does?

It comes from your hard earned dollars that you give away when you pay local, state, and federal taxes!!

Your tax dollars (and you not being able to choose where they’re spent) are what allows this unhappy situation to continue.

From the comments in this thread (and many others on many other websites) it is obvious that mostly everyone is not happy with the current TSA security system (and the US government). So why do you continue to support it with your money?

If you’re not happy with the scanners… with airport security systems… with those in power to legislate your lives… then opt-out and do not pay taxes. Even better, move to another country. In fact, many are doing one or the other, or both.

There is more to this approach, certainly, but it is a really simple concept:

Imagine enough people (millions of them) not paying their taxes due to them realizing that by paying taxes it only means a continuation of the corrupted system. This would send the strong message to the US government and its employees that they work for the people and not the other way around. It is you that pays their salary so why do you let them treat you as if you’re a cow and not a human being?

Then when the US government starts crying and shouting that there are not enough tax receipts to pay their salaries and their many unproductive, subsidized programs tell them they’ve been fired! Tell them you want a system where you decide where your tax dollars are to be spent and that they need approval from you personally before any money is spent.

Imagine that you can decide where your tax dollars are spent!

Do you think that the majority of the population, the majority of people who pay taxes, want their hard earned money to go towards endless wars? While a minor group may want this the general consensus is no.

Do you want your money going towards wasteful programs that benefit only a few (the manufacturers of the scanners in this case) and not the public? You may want to but mostly everyone else does not.

The money trail starts with your wallet. You’re the boss and the US government is your employee. Treat them as such and don’t pay their salaries.

Do you really feel safer now that the scanners are in place? If you do then you’re dreaming. Did you approve the program to design, manufacture, install, and manage the TSA’s security system? You did not have a say in it, did you? NO ONE did except those you have hired to work for you. Who you ask? The politicians you’ve elected, that’s who! But you got what you did not want and now complain about it. Well, do something about it, where it counts: don’t pay your taxes.

“Our No. 1 enemy is ignorance. And I believe that is the No. 1 enemy for everyone – it’s not understanding what actually is going on in the world. It’s only when you start to understand that you can make effective decisions and effective plans. Now, the question is, who is promoting ignorance? Well, those organizations that try to keep things secret, and those organizations which distort true information to make it false or misrepresentative. In this latter category, it is bad media.

It really is my opinion that media in general are so bad that we have to question whether the world wouldn’t be better off without them altogether. They are so distortive to how the world actually is that the result is… we see wars, and we see corrupt governments continue on.

One of the hopeful things that I’ve discovered is that nearly every war that has started in the past 50 years has been a result of media lies. The media could’ve stopped it if they had searched deep enough; if they hadn’t reprinted government propaganda they could’ve stopped it. But what does that mean? Well, that means that basically populations don’t like wars, and populations have to be fooled into wars. Populations don’t willingly, with open eyes, go into a war. So if we have a good media environment, then we also have a peaceful environment.” Julian Assange


May 19, 2011, 1:48 a.m.

These scanners are totally unneccessary. The best way to sniff out drugs or bombs are with trained dogs, cheaper, not harmful to humans and probably a 100%  accurate. This being the case you have to ask yourself why they went for the more expensive, more controvercial option…


May 19, 2011, 1:54 a.m.

These scanners are totally unnecessary. The best way to sniff out both drugs and bombs are with trained dogs. This would been less expensive, not a danger to people and probably 100% accurate. This being the case you have to ask yourself way they took the more expensive, more controvercial option…

TSA - The Sex Agency

May 19, 2011, 5:52 a.m.

This whole article stinks. the company that created these TSA sex toys, has ALL the data needed to prove they are dangerous.

The sheep that listen to the rent-a-cops at the airport, just need to stop flying for a while to protest this fiasco. But, Americans are disrespectful of their Rights to object intrusive treatment of their sovereignty and dignity.

So, get cancer and die. It’s your own fault.


May 19, 2011, 4:46 p.m.

Apparently the companies that own and operate these machines are rife with conflicts including lobbyists that are former members of homeland security. Company’s name is Rapiscan. Anyone know about this. Of course a lot of these douschebags get waved right through security lanes or fly uninspected private jets, probably at taxpayer’s expense.

Wherever possible, people should just slow down and drive (see the sights) instead of flying.


May 19, 2011, 4:53 p.m.

The ownership of these companies is rife with conflicts including paid lobbyists that are former members of homeland insecurity. Of course these douschebags get waved through security or fly private at taxpayer expense. I recommend that everyone slow down and drive a car even if it takes a week to get where you are going. See the sights.

These machines are not technically the same as cell phones or cigarettes but the principal is the same. First they tell you its good for you and later you find out all about the ill effects.

None of


May 20, 2011, 1:28 a.m.

since the israelis recommended against it thats good enough for me
i really dont plan on doing much traveling and now im not even sure i can get on a plane with a drivers license as id
can we nuke lunch while their nuking us??

Kad Chon

May 20, 2011, 9:26 p.m.

From Gerald Celente (Trends Research Institute):

“Moreover, the fact that full-body scanners were promoted by former Homeland Security Czar, Michael Chertoff, as the ‘most effective means of detecting hidden explosive devices’ further raises my suspicions,” Celente said.  Following last year’s Christmas Day “Underwear Bomber” episode, Chertoff – who had left Homeland Security to open his own consulting firm – spent the holiday season making the media rounds loudly championing the scanners … while keeping quiet about his firm’s contract with Rapiscan, their manufacturer.  (Furthermore, it was established that the bomber could not have ignited the device with matches or the syringe of accelerant in his possession.  Only an electronic detonator or “extreme heat” could have set it off.)

“In other words,” said Celente, “the entire flying public is being subjected to either radioactive contamination or gross privacy invasion so that Chertoff & Co. can make a profit out of these pernicious machines. The pat-down option, an already invasive procedure, has been dramatically upgraded by the TSA into a flagrant full-body grope.  Making the pat-down so gross is designed to encourage people to go through the scanners rather than get felt up by strangers. It is my contention that this degrading and disgusting practice is about selling machines, not about ensuring security.

The “Celente Solution”: Just as the Government invariably gets everything else wrong, its grope-the-public strategy is upside-down and inside-out, contends Celente.”

Commenting is not available in this section entry.
This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Body Scanners

Body Scanners: Risking Health to Secure Airports

In an effort to detect explosives hidden under clothing, is the TSA jeopardizing passenger safety?

Get Updates

Our Hottest Stories