August 4, 2011

TSA Cancer Clusters…

The Obama GrabThe Obama Grab

The Obama GrabTM

Everyone surely knows the whole body naked-scanning machines that TSA rushed into service at airports around the country immediately after the mid-term elections. These days they are impossible to miss while traveling.

If one were to wonder if safety was forgotten in the rush to field the machines as quickly as possible, here’s some food for thought:

  • Boston TSA employees seem to be experiencing a higher than average rate of skin cancer1
  • FDA has not tested the full body scanners for safety2
  • NIST has not tested the full body scanners for safety3
  • additional action was recommended by the Johns Hopkins University to avoid exceeding the general public dose recommendation of 100 mrem per year4
  • the units have areas where beam overshoot will expose bystanders to repeated doses; protective shields were recommended, but seem to not have been implemented5
  • the systems were never studied for their cancer inducing properties using standard methods such as mutant mice6
  • the often quoted comparison between cosmic background radiation received during flight and the scanning machines is inaccurate, because the energy levels of the radiation are orders of magnitude different7
  • the dose estimations are likely to be inaccurate (too low), because the energy levels used concentrate more of the radiation in and near the skin, causing localized doses much higher than the “full body average”8

To be fair, the FDA responded to some of these issues9. Strangely, in the lengthy response nowhere does the FDA state that it studied the systems itself, or that the FDA has determined the systems to be safe. The response made reference to third party safety studies, but not only were these studies not performed on behalf of the FDA on the systems themselves, some of them pointed out issues that had not been addressed by the TSA10.

Further, a key study made by JHU was heavily redacted, making independent verification impossible. Not to mention that the characterization of the third party evaluations was at best questionable, as the FDA claimed NIST had provided “safety data”, when NIST states that it didn’t test the units for safety11.

And last but not least, in a response to the FDA, it seems that the JHU report was inconsistent and in fact implies that the primary radiation was measured in a manner that provided a lower than actual reading12.

Perhaps we should all just drive a car or resign ourselves to the Obama GrabTM until we can all vote out the Dear Leader and his gang that brought us this multi-billion dollar skin cancer experiment.

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