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Transportation Security Administration

Union calls for immediate radiation monitoring at TSA

Mar 22, 2011

WASHINGTON - The American Federation of Government Employees, the union for Transportation Security Officers nationwide, today called on TSA to immediately begin a nationwide radiation monitoring program and provide TSOs with dosimeters to measure radiation output at the checkpoints.

"AFGE has long advocated for a comprehensive radiation safety program that includes monitoring employees for exposure over time as well as training and education," AFGE National President John Gage said. "In light of recent reports that TSA has ordered re-testing of radiation-emitting equipment due to errors found during an internal review, TSA can no longer rely on the previously-reported test data for employee exposure … it is imperative that monitoring of employee exposure be undertaken immediately."

In July 2010, AFGE Health and Safety Specialist Milly Rodriguez testified before Congress, and discussed workplace exposure to ionizing radiation at TSA—which has been an issue since the agency's inception. TSA has held the position that there is no harmful exposure from radiation emissions from the X-ray machines used to view the contents of checked baggage as well as carry-on baggage. AFGE offered to conduct an independent study of radiation emissions, but TSA declined the offer. AFGE also offered to fund the purchase of dosimeters (which measure exposure to radiation) but TSA said TSOs are not allowed to wear dosimeters not issued by TSA, even though they refuse to provide them. TSA's position is that the agency has done the necessary testing and is not required by any applicable standards to issue dosimeters to its employees.

"AFGE has suggested that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conduct a comprehensive study that we firmly believe is needed," Gage added. "We are encouraged to learn from press reports that TSA intends to ask NIOSH to update its 2008 study, in which it recommended a nationwide, mandatory radiation monitoring program. TSA did not act on that recommendation, and there has never been a better time to implement it."

Union calls for immediate radiation monitoring at TSA

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