Home > posts > TSA Exempts Itself from Cancer Screening
October 31st, 2012 8:15 pm
TSA Exempts Itself from Cancer Screening

Remember this story from Richard Rahn of the Cato Institute the next time you’re looking for an example of how ours is turning into a government of men, not laws:

Use of X-ray body scanners is an example of regulatory deception. If you work in the private sector and spend substantial time around machines or substances that emit radiation, you normally are required to wear tags that measure radiation doses. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has exempted itself from that requirement with the argument that the doses of radiation passengers and TSA employees receive from the X-ray body scanners (backscatters) at airports is so low as to cause no more than a trivial amount of extra cancers. They may well be right, but without measuring what employees and passengers actually receive from frequent and sometimes miscalibrated machines, no one knows for sure. Besides, the effect of radiation on the body is cumulative.

The European Union has prohibited backscatters, as have many countries, because of concern about health and safety. TSA has come under great criticism for the use of these machines, particularly when a safer and better technology is available. TSA has not admitted the danger but quietly has been replacing some of the backscatters with millimeter-wave scanners. These machines rely on low-energy radio waves like those in cell phones and thus are believed potentially not to damage a person’s DNA, unlike the backscatters. These new machines are faster because a computer analyzes the image, rather than a guard as with the X-ray machines. They are better at detection and provide greater personal privacy. Still, the question remains, why is TSA phasing out the X-ray machines so slowly and not providing its employees with radiation-detection tags? Private employers probably would be sued over such behavior.

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