TSA Puts Off Safety Study of X-ray Body Scanners

Previous independent observations  and studies have signaled how the body scanners do cause cancer due to the radiation. Furthermore, airport scanner operators have been diagnosed with cancer a few years after working next to the machines.

by Michael Grabell
ProPublica
November 16, 2011

The head of the Transportation Security Administration has backed off a public commitment to conduct a new independent study of X-ray body scanners used at airport security lanes around the country.

Earlier this month, a ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation found that the TSA had glossed over research [1] that the X-ray scanners could lead to a small number of cancer cases. The scanners emit low levels of ionizing radiation, which has been shown to damage DNA. In addition, several safety reviewers who initially advised the government on the scanners said they had concerns about the machines being used, as they are today, on millions of airline passengers.

At a Senate hearing after the story ran, TSA Administrator John Pistole agreed to a request by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to conduct a new independent study [2] of the health effects of the X-ray scanners, also known as backscatters.

But at a Senate hearing [3] of a different committee last week, Pistole said he had since received a draft report on the machines by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, or IG, that might render the independent study unnecessary.

“My strong belief is those types of machines are still completely safe,” Pistole said. “If the determination is that this IG study is not sufficient, then I will look at still yet another additional study.”

According to a summary obtained by ProPublica, the inspector general concluded the machines are within industry standards for radiation exposure limits. But the summary also suggests the report focuses mostly on how the TSA monitors and maintains the machines. The full report won’t be released for several weeks.

“I hope the Obama administration is not backing away from an independent study of the health effects of these radiation-emitting machines,” Collins said in a statement to ProPublica. “What I asked for — and what the administrator committed to — was an independent study on the health effects of [the] machines, not just a study on whether TSA is doing an adequate job of inspecting, maintaining and operating” them.

The inspector general’s report calls on the TSA to ensure that radiation surveys are conducted for unintended emissions, that calibrations are consistently documented and that airport screeners complete annual radiation safety training. The inspector general also advised the agency to determine how much on-the-job training is needed for screeners who operate the backscatters and to ensure that accidental radiation overdoses are properly reported.

It’s unclear whether the recommendations resulted from any problems found during the investigation, or are general reminders about best practices. It’s also unclear whether investigators measured the radiation doses from the machines themselves or relied on inspections conducted by the manufacturer.

The TSA uses two types of body scanners [4]. With the backscatter machines that have been the focus of health concerns, a passenger stands between two large blue boxes and is scanned with a pencil X-ray beam that moves rapidly left to right and up and down the body. With the other kind of scanner, called a millimeter-wave machine, a passenger enters a chamber that looks like a round phone booth and is scanned with a form of low-energy radio waves, which do not strip electrons from atoms and have not been shown to cause cancer.

In recent years, the TSA has commissioned tests of the X-ray scanners by the Food and Drug Administration and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. In addition, survey teams from the Army Public Health Command visit airports to check the machines.

Those tests have all shown that the X-ray scanners emit extremely low levels of radiation, equivalent to the radiation received in a few minutes of flying. But the tests haven’t doused questions from some outside radiation experts about why the TSA doesn’t use only the millimeter-wave machines, which the agency also deems highly effective.

The European Union on Monday prohibited the use of X-ray body scanners [5] in European airports “in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.”

But others have pointed to problems with millimeter-wave machines. Germany announced earlier this year that it would forgo the machines after concluding that they produced too many false positives.

There are currently 500 body scanners, split about evenly between the two technologies, deployed in airports. The TSA plans to deploy 1,275 backscatter and millimeter-wave scanners covering more than half its security lanes by the end of 2012 and 1,800 covering nearly all lanes by 2014.

TSA Airport Scanner Operators Suffering from Cancer

by Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
June 28, 2011

It took only a few years for the consequences of exposure to airport scanner radiation to come out. TSA airport scanner operators and other personnel discovered what are called clusters of cancer in their bodies after only a decade or so of working with these machines. The discovery of this information was done after the Electronic Privacy Information Center obtained documents that show how TSA workers got sick with cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Instead of providing the workers with proper medical attention and actually evaluating the safety of the machines, the TSA sought to keep this matter quiet in order to avoid an even greater opposition to the full body scanners installed in many airports around the US and the world. It is the proximity and continuous exposition to body scanner radiation what caused that several airport workers who first began using the scanners back in the early 2000’s now suffer from irreversible medical conditions.

Even when employees and supervisors frequently requested radiation meters in order to realistically gauge how much radiation they were being exposed to, the TSA never honored those requests. In fact, the TSA never even had the scanners tested for safety. Although US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said several times that the machines were safe, the truth is that a study cited by the TSA and Homeland Security was bogus. The study that according to Napolitano had been conducted by NIST regarding airport scanner safety never actually took place. NIST came out recently ‘washing its hands’ and stating the the National Institute of Standards and Technology never conducted any safety tests on the full body scanners.

The alarm seems to have been first rang by the deputy federal security director at Boston Logan International Airport, who related concerns about the number of workers diagnosed with cancer.  In an e-mail whose subject line reads “Boston cancer+Radiation Safety and health risks concerns”, the director pleads once again for the radiation monitoring devices requested in multiple other occasions. He emphasizes his and everyone else’s concern about “the number of TSO’s thus far being diagnosed with cancer” and “our concern that TSA’s improperly non-monitored radiation threat facing both checkpoint and baggage assigned TSO’s”.

Some TSA workers manifested their concerns regarding radiation exposure in last several months alleging that the very own TSA had been less than forthcoming with its findings as they related to radiation exposure safety. According to Infowars.com, Dr. David Brenner from Columbia University had found that “the body scanners are likely to lead to an increase in a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma, which affects the head and neck.” Additionally, Dr. Michael Love, from the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at the Johns Hopkins, said publicly that   “statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays”.

“There really is no other technology around where we’re planning to X-ray such an enormous number of individuals. It’s really unprecedented in the radiation world,” asserted Brenner. While scientists and doctors warned about the dangers of the scanners, the US government paraded around claiming the devices were safe.

Many other science professors and scientists warned the government about the little or no research that existed regarding the safety of the full body scanners. Some of them suggested that there should be different ways of accomplishing the same goals that the government intends to, without the need of harming the workers or the passengers. “There is still no rigorous, hard, data for the safety of x-ray airport passenger scanners,” said a group of professors from the University of California, as they pointed out that the only tests conducted were those performed by the full body scanner manufacturers.

It is worth remembering that this same full body scanning technology is now being deployed by Homeland Security to places such as sports arenas, stadiums, check points and in smaller sizes to Courthouses, Malls and even some schools.


Airport Body Scanners NEVER Tested for Safety

The supposed safety study performed by NIST and mentioned by TSA did not happenned.

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
June 27, 2011

Newly released internal government documents, obtained via the Freedom Of Information Act, reveal that the TSA, and specifically the head of the Department of Homeland Security, “publicly mischaracterized” the findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in stating that NIST had positively confirmed the safety of full body scanners in tests.

In the private email response, NIST stated that the Institute had not, in fact, tested full body scanners at all for safety, and that the Institute does not even undertake product testing.

The email (below) states that the director of NIST was “not looking for corrections”, but wished to “offer clarification”, that the agency “doesn’t want any mischaracterization of their work continued.”

At the time, Prisonplanet.com published a response article to Napolitano’s claims, highlighting the fact that her statements regarding the safety of the scanners, as well as her claims that the pat down alternative was “discreet”, were manifestly false.

It is now clear that our concerns were shared by another government agency, in the form of NIST.

Another document obtained by EPIC even shows that, far from affirming their safety, NIST warned that airport screeners should avoid standing next to full body scanners in order to keep exposure to harmful radiation “as low as reasonably achievable.”

It is not clear whether or not the information and advice was ever passed on to TSA workers.

However, another document obtained by EPIC shows that a growing number of TSA workers diagnosed with cancers are voicing concern that the full body scanners and x-ray machines are indeed to blame for their illnesses.

The document also highlights the fact that the TSA has failed to issue employees with dosimeters, safety devices that would warn of radiation exposure, despite repeated requests from workers and their supervisors.

In an email sent by a TSA representative to employees at Boston’s Logan Airport, workers are assured that their complaints are being listened to and that a request to issue the radiation monitoring devices had been sent to TSA headquarters.

“I understand that some TSO’s who were diagnosed as having cancer have already left TSA employment but that BOS still has an alarmingly high number of cancer afflicted TSOs still working here.” the email states.

“Despite TSA management’s past assurances, many TSOs here do not feel safe from radiation threats that may go hand in hand with using x-ray screening technology, especially the newer [installed since TSA federalized airport security] technology…” the email continues.

In the same USA Today piece, Napolitano, or ‘Big Sis’ as she is now often referred to, also claimed that the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory had also independently affirmed the safety of the scanners.

However, yet another document obtained and released by EPICnow shows that a Johns Hopkins study actually revealed that radiation zones around body scanners could exceed the “General Public Dose Limit.”

At the time we pointed out that Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at the Johns Hopkins school of medicine hadpublicly stated two days previously that “statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays”.

“…we have a situation at the airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner,” Love said.

In addition, several other scientists have continued to speak out over the health hazards associated with the x-ray technology, noting that the body scanners are far from safe.

It is now even more clear that Napolitano’s statements to the public regarding the body scanners were misleading at best, and at worst were outright lies.

EPIC is currently engaged in a lawsuit against the DHS to force full disclosure of body scanner radiation risks. A second EPIC lawsuit is seeking to suspend the use of full body scanners altogether. Both lawsuits are ongoing.

The TSA previously refused to release internal reports on the safety of the body scanners.

Airport Scanners Waves Tear Apart DNA

by Terrence Aym

While the application of scientific knowledge creates technology, sometimes the technology is later redefined by science. Such is the case with terahertz (THz) radiation, the energy waves that drive the technology of the TSA: back scatter airport scanners.

Emerging THz technological applications

THz waves are found between microwaves and infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum. This type of radiation was chosen for security devices because it can penetrate matter such as clothing, wood, paper and other porous material that’s non-conducting.

This type of radiation seems less threatening because it doesn’t penetrate deeply into the body and is believed to be harmless to both people and animals.

THz waves may have applications beyond security devices. Research has been done to determine the feasibility of using the radiation to detect tumors underneath the skin and for analyzing the chemical properties of various materials and compounds. The potential marketplace for THz driven technological applications may generate many billions of dollars in revenue.

Because of the potential profits, intense research on THz waves and applications has mushroomed over the last decade.

Health risks

The past several years the possible health risks from cumulative exposure to THz waves was mostly dismissed. Experts pointed to THz photons and explained that they are not strong enough to ionize atoms or molecules; nor are they able to break the chains of chemical bonds. They assert—and it is true—that while higher energy photons like ultraviolet rays and X-rays are harmful, the lower energy ones like terahertz waves are basically harmless. [Softpedia.com]

While that is true, there are other biophysics at work. Some studies have shown that THZ can cause great genetic harm, while other similar studies have shown no such evidence of deleterious affects.

Boian Alexandrov at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico recently published an abstract with colleagues, “DNA Breathing Dynamics in the Presence of a Terahertz Field” that reveals very disturbing—even shocking—evidence that the THz waves generated by TSA scanners is significantly damaging the DNA of the people being directed through the machines, and the TSA workers that are in close proximity to the scanners throughout their workday.

From the abstracts own synopsis:

“We consider the influence of a terahertz field on the breathing dynamics of double-stranded DNA. We model the spontaneous formation of spatially localized openings of a damped and driven DNA chain, and find that linear instabilities lead to dynamic dimerization, while true local strand separations require a threshold amplitude mechanism. 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.”

In layman’s terms what Alexandrov and his team discovered is that the resonant effects of the THz waves bombarding humans unzips the double-stranded DNA molecule. This ripping apart of the twisted chain of DNA creates bubbles between the genes that can interfere with the processes of life itself: normal DNA replication and critical gene expression.

Other studies have not discovered this deadly effect on the DNA because the research only investigated ordinary resonant effects.

Nonlinear resonance, however, is capable of such damage and this sheds light on the genotoxic effects inherent in the utilization of THz waves upon living tissue. The team emphasizes in their abstract that the effects are probabilistic rather than deterministic.

Unfortunately, DNA damage is not limited only to THz wave exposure. Other research has been done that reveals lower frequency microwaves used by cell phones and Wi-Fi cause some harm to DNA over time as well. [“Single- and double-strand DNA breaks in rat brain cells after acute exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation.“]

Airport Body Scanners will Store Biometrics

Infowars.com

TSA and Homeland Security authorities may be preparing a body scanner bait and switch, by proposing new devices that advocates claim do not see under clothing and do not emit dangerous radiation, yet do store a biometric record of the person using them which would grease the skids for authorities to track individuals in real time.

A video demonstration of the new body scanner proposes that it be used not just in airports, but also banks and retail establishments, apartment blocks and other transport hubs. How long before we’re forced to submit to a body scan to go shopping, cash a check, catch a bus, or simply to enter our own home? This will be the first step towards a truly frightening Minority Report-style electronic prison.

As we reported earlier today, following a nationwide revolt against naked body scanners and new invasive TSA groping procedures, DHS chief Janet Napolitano and TSA Administrator John Pistole have been forced to meet today with executives from major travel associations who are spearheading the resistance.

Part of the negotiations could revolve around the TSA ad

Introducing biometric scanners will only entrench the notion of Americans being guilty until proven innocent. Indeed, Iscon brags that it has already introduced such devices into U.S. prisons. Furthermore, allied with cutting edge satellite and other surveillance technology, once the government has the biometric blueprint for your whole body it greases the skids for the ultimate Orwellian nightmare, real time tracking of an individual person around the clock.

The fact that such scanners are eventually intended to be used to control access to shopping malls, banks, transport hubs and even apartment blocks, as the makers admit, paves the way for a gargantuan Minority Report-style total surveillance grid.

At the very least this will create a whole new treasure trove of detailed personal information which is completely open to abuse. Unlike mere facial recognition, which can be combated through altering one’s appearance or wearing a disguise, a full body biometric blueprint will allow the authorities to identify you in any situation. You might as well have a microchip implanted in your forehead.

Adopting a new variant of body scanner that is equipped with optional biometric technologies and identity verification techniques, according to Iscon, the company behind the new 1000D whole body scanner. Its makers claim that the device doesn’t fire harmful radiation at the user and that the machine does not display details of naked bodies. However, since both these claims were also made by the TSA and later proven to be completely fraudulent, they should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.

The new device uses thermo-conductive infrared technology that completes a 360°scan of the human body in 30 seconds, capturing every facet of biometric data. Although the video demonstration claims that the device “does not create any privacy issues,” the fact that the government will have the blanket power to use technology designed to catch criminals on the general public is an obvious violation of privacy.

Even if the immediate health and privacy risks of current airport body scanners are neutralized, allowing the federal government to keep an indefinite record of the biometric identify of your entire body if anything presents a greater threat to liberty than the current body scanner set up. As the scandal surrounding the U.S. Marshals Service, who were forced to admit that they were saving naked body scanner images earlier this year, goes to show, information is being illegally stored despite the assurances of authorities.

The Iscon system represents a one-stop biometric data collection technology that may soon be used in airports, courthouses, and eventually at the local mall and sports arena, depending on the severity of the next terror scare.

The government has a keen interest in collecting and compiling biometric data on citizens. The FBI announced a $1 billion effort to build the world’s largest computer database of peoples’ physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad, the Washington Post reported in December of 2007.

The Department of Homeland Security has collected biometrics for years, including the use of iris scans at certain airports under the guise of identity verification of travelers who have passed background checks and want to move through lines quickly. “The department is also looking to apply iris- and face-recognition techniques to other programs,” the Post added.

Napolitano and Pistole may be preparing to present biometric body scanners as the “solution” to the nationwide outrage over TSA groping and naked body scanners, but such a system will only arm Big Sis with yet more power and more information with which to catalogue, track and trace American citizens.