Airport scanner radiation: Real or imaginary health threat?

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The full-body X-ray scanners used to screen airport passengers could potentially account for one new cancer per 10 million exposures over a person's lifetime, according to a recent study published in the journal Radiology. It is also true, however, that, the amount of radiation that a person receives from a scanner is equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure from just a few minutes of flying time. But no one ever said that fear is rational, and concerns over this aspect of air travel lingers, as a piece this week in The New York Times suggests.

Although the Transportation Security Administration has said the machines are routinely inspected for problems and are equipped with fail-safe shutoff systems, many people especially pregnant women are opting for the radiation-free pat-down inspection instead. But such safety concerns aren t exactly supported by science. As ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross sees it, pregnant women who want to skip the full-body scan are simply opting to exercise an abundance of precaution, as pregnant women are wont to do. That is their prerogative, of course. However, he notes, such fears are not based on real risks, to women or to their fetus. Even in the worse-case scenario there is still no health threat.