Feds Glossed Over Cancer Concerns in Rush for Airport X-Ray Scanners

"Today, the United States has begun marching millions of airline passengers through the X-ray body scanners, parting ways with countries in Europe and elsewhere that have concluded that such widespread use of even low-level radiation poses an unacceptable health risk. The government is rolling out the X-ray scanners despite having a safer alternative that the Transportation Security Administration says is also highly effective."

"On Sept. 23, 1998, a panel of radiation safety experts gathered at a Hilton hotel in Maryland to evaluate a new device that could detect hidden weapons and contraband. The machine, known as the Secure 1000, beamed X-rays at people to see underneath their clothing.

One after another, the experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration raised questions about the machine because it violated a longstanding principle in radiation safety — that humans shouldn’t be X-rayed unless there is a medical benefit.

'I think this is really a slippery slope,' said Jill Lipoti, who was the director of New Jersey’s radiation protection program. The device was already deployed in prisons; what was next, she and others asked — courthouses, schools, airports? 'I am concerned … with expanding this type of product for the traveling public,' said another panelist, Stanley Savic, the vice president for safety at a large electronics company. 'I think that would take this thing to an entirely different level of public health risk.'

Michael Grabell reports for ProPublica November 1, 2011.

Source: ProPublica, 11/02/2011