FDA Safety Regulations Apply to X-ray Scanners that Scan Bags, but not for Scanners that Scan People

Caution - this airport X-ray security device has not been approved for use on humans by any govt health agency

Here’s an article that should make you angry – very angry; and maybe also a little bit afraid, too.  It is fairly lengthy, but well worth reading from start to finish.

Either to encourage you to read through the article or to save you the time to do so, here are a few of the major points it makes.

First, as our own headline hints at, through the most perverse of government processes, the X-ray scanning machines that X-ray our suitcases are subject to FDA regulation, but not the X-ray scanning machines that irradiate us!

Yes, our socks and underwear are given more protection in our checked suitcase than we are given ourselves when we walk through the possibly very dangerous X-ray scanners at airports these days.

And as for the phrase ‘possibly very dangerous’, the TSA assures us that their X-ray scanners are safe.  But they can’t point to a single piece of peer-reviewed scientific research to confirm their claim.  So I guess that means we’ll just have to trust them.  Because, after all, they are from the government, and they are here to help us, right?

It is not only us that have to trust the TSA’s assurances that their X-ray scanners are safe.  Their own employees are being forced to rely on the unsupported word of the TSA too, because the TSA – for reasons we can only guess at – refuses to allow its staff members to wear X-ray dosimeters that would enable them to monitor how much radiation they are being dosed with while standing around the machines all day.

Not only are the X-ray machines banned in Europe (either because they are potentially unsafe or because they are useless as a security device) but they were taken out of the Californian prison system’s security process, way back in 2001.

Yes, prisoners are being protected from these machines and their potentially dangerous radiation, but law abiding airline passengers are not.

Also semi-privileged are pregnant airline flying staff who are being warned about the cumulative effects of the ordinary radiation received while flying and the ‘bonus’ radiation from these machines, but pregnant frequent fliers receive no such warning.

We festoon our beer bottles with warnings to pregnant women, but not the TSA X-ray scanners.

As for those radiation doses, contrary to what the TSA says, there is no such thing as a safe dose.  It seems that all radiation is bad, it is all cumulative, and it makes little difference whether you get a harmful dose of radiation all at once or over the course of 1,000 smaller doses.

The good news is the machines are checked.  The bad news is they are only checked once a year, and by the manufacturer rather than by any third party independent certification authority.  In particular, the machines use moving mechanical parts to direct the radiation all over you, and if these moving parts should stick or jam, instead of getting a beam rapidly deployed all over you, you’re risking getting a full on beam shining laser-like into just one concentrated part of you.

As little as a decade ago, many states in the US prohibited the use of X-ray machines for any purpose other than medical examinations.  For sure, radiation hasn’t got any safer in the ten years since then.

So, if you should be directed to a whole body scanner with the brand name of Rapiscan on your next flight somewhere, you might want to consider saying ‘I Opt Out’ and requesting a pat-down instead.  As offensively intrusive as it is, at least you’re only getting your private parts felt up rather than zapped with radiation.

1 thought on “FDA Safety Regulations Apply to X-ray Scanners that Scan Bags, but not for Scanners that Scan People”

  1. Is it only the Rapiscans that we should be concerned about? And btw, what “safety screening” do they give the machines used to scan the bags? Why hasn’t some enterprising airline employee (or frequent flyer) covertly worn a radiation monitor? A pregnant one might be a very good candidate.

    I was flagged at the SEA scanner last week for wearing those disposable warming pads for pain in an-ahem-very private place. With great delay and shows of privacy protection, double agents for (their legal) security etc. they proceeded to “pat me down”. They did say if any place was tender to let them know. I told them of course the painful places were where the heating pads were. They didn’t even touch them! So yet another TSA charade was played out. Last night I was flagged for “special screening” in Las Vegas. They grabbed and swabbed my shoes only. My bags had gone through the tube with both liquids and computer still inside, which wasn’t even noticed.

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