POLITICAL observations & opinions

* People who don’t want to be scanned or patted should not fly. I know I don’t want them on my flight.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 24, 2010

an email from Congressman Rush Holt …

Like many of you, I have serious questions about the Transportation Security Administration’s new body imaging technology and pat down procedures. I have written to the TSA Administrator and called for Congressional hearings about the need to look more closely at the privacy issues and effectiveness of the screenings, and especially the potential long-term health effects of the new technology.

Earlier this year, the Congressional Biomedical Caucus, which I co-chair, hosted a briefing in which Dr. David Brenner of Columbia University reported that certain scanning machines (known as “backscatter” scanners), currently in use at airports like JFK and proposed for wider deployment, deliver more radiation per screening than what TSA officials have claimed.  Dr. Brenner, along with other scientists, has asserted that excessive x-ray exposure can increase an exposed individual’s chance of getting cancer.  Further, these scanners deliver radiation to the head and scalp, parts of the body unlikely to be used to conceal dangerous items.  Because the majority of cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the United States develop on the head, this is an unnecessary health risk.

We shouldn’t be using, much less expanding the use of, technology unless we are sure of the health impact. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, is conducting an examination of backscatter technology. As I’ve urged, Congress should freeze funding for any further full-body scanning devices employing this technology until GAO completes its study and the government establishes a more rational and selective use of these procedures and technology based on sound science.


It is nice that the Congressman is concerned about the health impacts of body scanning technology. But we should remember that it is very unhealthy to get blown up in an airplane.

It seems to me that most people who fly a lot are willing to put up with even serious inconvenience if it makes the flight safer. People who don’t want to be scanned or patted should not fly. I know I don’t want them on my flight.



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