WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Association for Airline Passenger Rights (“AAPR”) today called on the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) to immediately discontinue using all radiation-emitting full-body scanners until the retesting ordered by the agency is completed. What TSA has characterized as
“record-keeping” errors has raised additional concerns about the safety
of the scanners.
TSA revealed it found calculation errors, missing data, and anomalies
in some reports. The agency is retesting all radiation-emitting
full-body scanners as well as other baggage screening equipment used to
screen that had inaccurate reports.
“Airline passengers have enough concerns about flying – including
numerous ones about how TSA conducts its haphazard security screenings
– so it is TSA’s responsibility to ensure passengers are not being
exposed to unhealthy amounts of radiation,” argued Brandon M. Macsata,
Executive Director of the Association for Airline Passenger Rights.
“There have been plenty of concerns already outlined by many
well-respected scientists and physicians regarding the
radiation-emitting full-body scanners, so this latest news doesn’t
reassure the public. We need more than another press statement issued
by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano or TSA Administrator
Last year, scientists at the University of California at San Francisco
expressed their concerns about the “potential serious health risks” of
the scanners; in a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(“FDA”), they raised a number of “red flags” as well as specific
concerns raised by dermatologists and cancer experts. They included:
* A) The large population of older travelers, >65 years of age, is
particularly at risk from the mutagenic effects of the X-rays based on
the known biology of melanocyte aging.
* B) A fraction of the female population is especially sensitive to
mutagenesis- provoking radiation leading to breast cancer. Notably,
because these women, who have defects in DNA repair mechanisms, are
particularly prone to cancer, X-ray mammograms are not performed on
them. The dose to breast tissue beneath the skin represents a similar
* C) Blood (white blood cells) perfusing the skin is also at risk.
* D) The population of immunocompromised individuals–HIV and cancer
patients (see above) is likely to be at risk for cancer induction by
the high skin dose.
* E) The risk of radiation emission to children and adolescents does
not appear to have been fully evaluated.
* F) The policy towards pregnant women needs to be defined once the
theoretical risks to the fetus are determined.
* G) Because of the proximity of the testicles to skin, this tissue is
at risk for sperm mutagenesis.
* H) Have the effects of the radiation on the cornea and thymus been
Said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who serves as Ranking Member on the
Senate Committee on Homeland Security: “Administrator Pistole and I
have discussed at length the full-body scanners, and TSA has repeatedly
assured me that the machines that emit radiation do not pose a health
risk. Nonetheless, if TSA contractors reporting on the radiation levels
have done such a poor job, how can airline passengers and crew have
confidence in the data used by the TSA to reassure the public? More
than one in four reports — randomly selected from thousands of reports
over two years and covering 15 airports — included gross errors about
radiation emissions. That is completely unacceptable when it comes to
AAPR contends that in light of the miscalculations on the radiation
emissions, coupled with ongoing concerns expressed by some in the
scientific and medical communities, TSA owes it to the very people
they’re charged with protecting to immediately stop using the scanners.