Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

TSA Puts Off Safety Study of X-ray Body Scanners

Comments Filter:
  • Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @05:57PM (#38078948)

    We wouldn't want them to figure out that the scanners are hazardous until the contract to buy all those scanners has been fulfilled. You just know that some lucky contractor will make boatloads off of this.

    • Re:Of course (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:02PM (#38079022) Homepage Journal

      We wouldn't want them to figure out that the scanners are hazardous until the contract to buy all those scanners has been fulfilled. You just know that some lucky contractor will make boatloads off of this.

      Not to mention all those happy cancer clinics, eh? eh?

      We've known for decades that every X-Ray you undergo incrementally increases your odds of a malignancy.

    • Re:Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

      by residieu (577863) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:06PM (#38079078)
      Once they have paid for all the scanners, just think of how much the NEXT lucky contractor will make when we have to replace all the dangerous ineffective scanners with the new big thing that is just as untested as the last one was.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sponge Bath (413667)
        This NEW scanner works by vaporizing the air travel candidate with high temperature plasma and shooting the remains through a mass spectrometer. It follows the same basic principle as dunking suspected witches in the river: survivors are obviously witches.
    • Re:Of course (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tragedy (27079) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:55PM (#38079670)

      Just like the scanners in the first place, who wants to bet that the lucky contractor also has financial ties to someone currently or formerly in a position of authority at the TSA or Dept. of Homeland Security?

    • Re:Of course (Score:5, Informative)

      by brillow (917507) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:44PM (#38080284)

      Oh yeah, and who does consulting for Rapiscan (the people who sell these things)? Michael Chertoff! Former DHS secretary who, while in office, said it would be just great if we bought a bunch of these things!

      I think they are a little scared because even if the company sells these things, it might not protect them from some giant class-action suit.

  • I'm sure the radiation is totally safe. After all Curie died of old age after decades of labwork amirite?
    • Re:Safety? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cvtan (752695) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:15PM (#38079196)
      While I'm sure your tongue was firmly in cheek: "Curie died in 1934 of aplastic anemia brought on by her years of exposure to radiation."

      However her husband fared better: "Pierre Curie died in a street accident in Paris on 19 April 1906. Crossing the busy Rue Dauphine in the rain at the Quai de Conti, he slipped and fell under a heavy horse drawn cart. He died instantly when one of the wheels ran over his head, fracturing his skull."

      • While I'm sure your tongue was firmly in cheek: "Curie died in 1934 of aplastic anemia brought on by her years of exposure to radiation."

        However her husband fared better: "Pierre Curie died in a street accident in Paris on 19 April 1906. Crossing the busy Rue Dauphine in the rain at the Quai de Conti, he slipped and fell under a heavy horse drawn cart. He died instantly when one of the wheels ran over his head, fracturing his skull."

        As morbid as it sounds, his death was probably less painful.

  • by crowlogic (940856) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:04PM (#38079034)
    meanwhile, Europe bans them. A lot smarter than these fools running the US, g*d damn them. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=europe-bans-x-ray-body-scanners [scientificamerican.com]
  • Small risk (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DeadDecoy (877617) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:05PM (#38079052)
    Here's my favorite bit:

    Earlier this month, a ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation found that the TSA had glossed over research that the X-ray scanners could lead to a small number of cancer cases.

    Because cancer is clearly not a big deal. From another perspective, I wonder what dosage TSA agents get when they stand around those devices all day. I'm not particularly fond of them, but I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone. And these scanners are probably increasing their chances significantly. I wonder if anyone is up for conducting a large-scale clinical trial to show the low-level employees that these devices are hazardous and that they too should be against them.

    • Re:Small risk (Score:5, Informative)

      by MadCow42 (243108) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:10PM (#38079136) Homepage

      >> I wonder if anyone is up for conducting a large-scale clinical trial to show the low-level employees that these devices are hazardous and that they too should be against them.

      You mean based on reports like this?

      http://news.slashdot.org/story/11/06/27/2012226/Cancer-Cluster-Possibly-Found-Among-TSA-Workers [slashdot.org]

    • by MrDoh! (71235) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:19PM (#38079240) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, I find it very odd the staff aren't making much more of this. Anywhere else, there's strict regulations about being near radiation emitters. Does the TSA have a union? And if so, why aren't they bashing the door down on this issue?

      Next, actual testing? Not a chance, they took the manufacturers own testing as proof it was all ok. Even CATSA does more testing in this regard than the US. They WANT to know the risks, and does it actually do what they're told it'll do instead of lining the guy's pocket who was in charge of purchasing them.

      Truly amazing that the profiteering going on here to the detriment of citizens.

      • by ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:36PM (#38079436)

        Truly American that the profiteering going on here to the detriment of citizens.

        FTFY.

        • by slew (2918)

          Truly American that the profiteering going on here to the detriment of citizens.

          FTFY.

          Cute, but didn't the UK use the totally untested Pandemrix H1N1 w/ special adjuvant vaccinne made by GSK (a UK) company? Of course germany was even more wacked by buying standard vaccinee for the govt officials and Pandemrix for everyone else. Apparently America doesn't have a monopoly on private profiteering to the detriment of citizens... Goverenments of the world unite ;^)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, the TSA is currently conducting a large-scale study of the cancer risk involved in standing next to x-ray scanners all day. We expect results in a few decades, maybe sooner.

      • Yes, the TSA is currently conducting a large-scale study of the cancer risk involved in standing next to x-ray scanners all day. We expect results in a few decades, maybe sooner.

        Unfortunately, that's exactly what it would take. The machines likely do spill some radiation, but it's going to rather low. Not Madame-Curie-glows-in-the-Dark levels. This takes years of following people and is very, very difficult to do well. From what I've seen of TSA front line troops, it's not exactly a career move so people will be moving in and out of exposures and therefore risks, people move between airports and therefore scanners making it even harder. People move and don't follow up on ema

    • Re:Small risk (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jasno (124830) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:15PM (#38079926) Journal

      Ain't it great?

        - you get to pay for the useless clusterfuck that is the TSA.
        - in 20 years you get to pay for the cancer settlement arranged with the TSA union.
        - By then, I'm sure we'll have socialized medicine... so you get to pay for their care.

      I'm a contractor, so I understand fully how the government gets paid to fuck-up, and then gets paid again to fix the fuck-up.

    • Because cancer is clearly not a big deal.

      And yet, it's a larger threat than airliner terrorism.

    • For what it's worth, someone is still studying the truck drivers that go through ports at least, and those seem to be the hardest hit by back-scatter X-ray scanners. Some truckers can get their entire cargo and truck scanned (themselves included) up to ten times a day.

      And those scanners seem to be lot more powerful than the ones at the airport because they don't just see through clothes, they see through steel and cargo containers. Also many truckers are independent, this means many have to pay for their ow

  • by atari2600a (1892574) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:06PM (#38079068)
    When we let fear control us into letting an "elected" official create a cabinet department called the Commission for State Securit--err I mean Department of Homeland Security, even though WE ALREADY HAVE A NATIONAL GUARD AND A CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. Seriously, did someone miss the possibility of alterior motives when it was announced we were reinventing the wheel?
    • even though WE ALREADY HAVE A NATIONAL GUARD AND A CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY.

      Note that the CIA is not allowed to operate in the USA. Yes, I know that it does anyway. It is, nonetheless illegal.

      Note also that the National Guard is neither trained nor equipped (nor sufficiently manned) to handle internal security.

      That said, we have plenty of normal police plus the FBI to handle that sort of thing.

      And THAT said, the Department of Homeland Security is nothing more than a coordination office between the

      • "Note also that the National Guard is neither trained nor equipped (nor sufficiently manned) to handle internal security.

        Right. That is what atari2600a said; we already have a department that is neither trained nor equipped to handle international security, so the DHS is redundant ;-)

  • Shocking (Score:5, Informative)

    by itchythebear (2198688) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:08PM (#38079098)

    I'll have to find some sources, but didn't they refuse to allow the TSA employees to wear radiation exposure badges or something like that? (To determine if they were being over exposed)

    They probably don't need to do any studies on if the scanners are safe or not, seems like they already know the answer.

    • Why ask a question if you know you won't like the answer?
      And people say the government is stupid..

    • Re:Shocking (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tftp (111690) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:51PM (#38080354) Homepage

      I'll have to find some sources, but didn't they refuse to allow the TSA employees to wear radiation exposure badges or something like that?

      If airport personnel starts wearing radiation exposure badges the number of travelers will drop down to 1% (if not 0.1%) of what it was before.

      TSA wants to banish the thought that anything dangerous might be occurring in those booths. Because of that no outward signs of such danger will be ever allowed. TSA drones will be gladly sacrificed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:09PM (#38079118)

    Weren't these scanners put in place for safety reasons? I.E. protecting people from harmful terrorists? Why do they want to protect us from harmful terrorists and not harmful cancers?

    • by WorBlux (1751716)
      Because terrorists are more shocking than cancers. Just like gun control propaganda focuses on danger to children, when in reality swimming pools are responsible for more deaths.
      • That's a very disingenuous claim by the gun lobby. WHO is focussing on Children? YOU are.

        In fact accidental drowning is responsible for about 1 death per 100,000 people in the US. Not just swimming pools, but all forms of drowning.

        Whereas firearms are responsible for about 15 per 100,000.

        The only way you can make the stat work to make swimming pools look more dangerous than guns is by ignoring all deaths but children's deaths. And then blaming the other side for the fact that you did it.

        Here's a couple of

        • by WorBlux (1751716)

          The only way you can make the stat work to make swimming pools look more dangerous than guns is by ignoring all deaths but children's deaths. And then blaming the other side for the fact that you did it

          I've heard people say, it's worth if if it saves one child. It is an argument that is used and focused on. Even outside of political arguments, most parents are more afraid of their kids being shot than drowning because the former is more shocking. Children are both much more likely to drown and much less likely to be fatally shot that the general population. Comparisons however are not disingenuous because if the arguments are made about children, so the relevant statistics are those specifically about chi

          • I would have fewer objections if you were willing to start with the police and army.

            I come from England. Our police are mostly unarmed and I hope it stays that way. And I don't think war is a good thing so I'm quite happy to see the military shrunk and/or disarmed.

            Why should the majority give up their most effective defense against that minority?

            Again from the perspective of England, it doesn't look like your ownership of firearms has helped you one bit. Quite the contrary in fact. It looks rather like a mental patient who thinks repeatedly banging his head against a wall is going to make him feel better.

            • by WorBlux (1751716)

              so I'm quite happy to see the military shrunk and/or disarmed.

              Which is ideal, but in the meantime the world is as it is.

              it doesn't look like your ownership of firearms has helped you one bit.

              Oh dear, firearm ownership is not the only thing that affects crime. It is only a single factor which deters it and obviously not a panacea. Look up Homicide statistics per state. It carries from over 20 per capita in D.C, to less than one in New Hampshire. Demographics and social attitudes towards violence have a larger effect.

              • Of course there are many factors that vary the rate. You should take a good, long, hard look at yourselves. The richest country in the world, yet other than a few banana republics, the one with the highest per cap gun deaths.

                From inside the US, it's probably difficult to see why your country is different in that way. From the outside, where we haven't had your culture trained into us from birth, it's very easy to see. The two, huge, glaring reasons are:
                1) You have huge social inequality.
                2) You have a unique

  • by RichMan (8097) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:10PM (#38079134)

    Why were the radiation levels not a purchasing requirement? I would expect any radiation unit to have the exposure level very clearly identified.

    Either specify that all units supplied must be under a maximum exposure (at all points in their operating life) set by the TSA or the supplier is liable.
    Or the supplier can specify an exposure level when delivering the unit and the TSA can decide to accept or decline the purpose.

    In either case the design limit should be easily available. And publishable as a start.
    If the design limit is not available, then on what criteria where the purchases authorized and who authorized the purchases without strict exposure limits. Because it would just be sheer stupidity to operate like that. (Of couse I expect a governemnt agencey to be operating within the stupidity realm).

  • Cancer risk, or terrorism... I mean, what's the harm in increasing - hypothetically, of course; they haven't proven it yet - a person's cancer risk when compared with the risk that, by not scanning everything and everyone, a terrorist will get on the plane and, absolutely, positively, undeniably cause that plane to crash into the building that causes the most deaths and financial damage?

    Let's be reasonable, people... /snark

    • ...There is such a thing as a middle ground.
      These body scanners are on one end, having nothing is the other. I'd prefer something in the middle.
      • by w_dragon (1802458)
        We had something in the middle - xray the carry-on luggage and do a metal check on the passengers. As a bonus we don't even need any expensive new equipment or training, which is why it's so hard to convince the right people to go back.
      • ...There is such a thing as a middle ground. These body scanners are on one end, having nothing is the other. I'd prefer something in the middle.

        Hire Israeli airport guards instead.

    • a terrorist will get on the plane and, absolutely, positively, undeniably cause that plane to crash into the building that causes the most deaths and financial damage?

      Or light their underpants on fire.......

    • by DarkOx (621550)

      Absolutely certain to crash the plane eh? Maybe you missed it when the last two people to get a bomb on a plane epic failed. Just getting a device past security is not enough you also need to have a device that works, which is harder that we thought

    • by hey! (33014)

      Well, the formula is different when you choose for a population than when you choose as a member of the population.

      As a member of the flying public, your considerations are dominated by two very immediate things: the indignity of being scanned or the indignity of being patted down. And because you *must* submit to one or the other, these certainties are likely to be more meaningful to you than any remote improbability, like being on a plane that is hijacked or receiving a cancer-causing mutation from the sc

      • The other ingredient in a risk assessment is comparing the expectation value of deaths from terrorism with and without the scanners.

        Is there any reason to believe that scanners reduce the risk of terrorism? Israeli aviation security expert Rafi Sela called them "useless".

  • by Gordo_1 (256312) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:28PM (#38079340)

    And yet in all the months I've been running into these damn X-ray machines, I think I've only seen one other person opt out in favor of a pat down/groping session.

    The rest of this country seems to be full of sheep.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Speak for yourself. I've opted for the pat down twice and have seen others do so. It will delay for about 3-5 extra minutes total, maybe less if they have the extra officer nearby. Despite all the hype about rubber gloves and cavity searches it's quite tame and reasonable. Unless you are in severe danger of missing your plane try it, you'll feel better about the small moral victory and the hassle is minimal.

    • I opt out every time I fly. I've resorted to flying in shorts and a t-shirt (changing clothes later) in order to demonstrate the idiocy that is the TSA rub-down.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This would actually be a good poll question for /.

      I opt out of the X-Ray machines at the airport:

      1) Always
      2) Never
      3) When I am not in a hurry
      4) When I am not wearing underwear
      5) I live in a country where we don't use these useless, cancer causing, pseudo strip searching machines.

    • It's odd... I opt out and when I do the TSA employees are very, very helpful and friendly. I know that they have a strict script to stick to, but I also get the impression that they are not all that happy about the exposure risk, and are happy when others recognize the risks as well.
      • It's odd... I opt out and when I do the TSA employees are very, very helpful and friendly. I know that they have a strict script to stick to, but I also get the impression that they are not all that happy about the exposure risk, and are happy when others recognize the risks as well.

        My niece flies a lot for work - like 2-4x a month. She always opts out, especially once she got pregnant. She said that many times the agents gave her shit for opting out, even when she told them she was pregnant. Funny thing about that, she's a model, I'd expect many agents would enjoy giving her a grope-job.

    • I opted out at PHX recently, they made a big deal out of making us stand to one side and calling out on their radios for agents to come and do a pat down. While we waited he insisted they were safe blah blah blah. My objection is more political/war profiteering than health risk so I just ignored him and didn't bother trying to engage in conversation.

      Anyway after the pat down was done I realized that not only had we bypassed the silly x-ray machine but we had also bypassed the standard metal detector.

      Yay sec

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:31PM (#38079372)

    And the theoretical safe levels would only apply if these machines are set up properly. There have been cases where xray machines have been mis-calibrated and put out much higher levels than were safe. And that was in a medical facility dedicated to safety.

    Of course I am sure that the TSA calibration records and maintenance records are a matter of public record on these powerful sources of radiation, and that scientists have been allowed access to these machines to confirm the governments assurances... They aren't? And they haven't?

    Science is not about taking someone in powers word for the truth, it is about confirming the truth independently. It is inconceivable to me that these machines were deployed without any independent testing and with complete secrecy about dosage, calibration and maintenance records. It stinks and it stinks bad.

    Only time will tell how deadly these machines are. I will bet anyone a crisp clean hundred dollar bill that these machines are at a minimum 3 orders of magnitude more harmful than the government is admitting (6,000 deaths from cancer). I am hoping they are no more harmful than 4 orders of magnitude more harmful (60,000 deaths from cancer) but fear 6+ orders of magnitude more harm (600,000 additional deaths from cancer).

    But is anyone else worried that even at the levels the government admitted to that they are willing to kill 6 Americans with cancer for security theater?

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:23PM (#38080026) Homepage

      Of course I am sure that the TSA calibration records and maintenance records are a matter of public record on these powerful sources of radiation, and that scientists have been allowed access to these machines to confirm the governments assurances... They aren't? And they haven't?

      They don't need to be public record. They just have to be followed like every other x ray emitting device which are regulated by the states. You want to put an x ray machine in your office? Fine, put it in then call the state radiation physicist before you light it up. They come out and check it to make sure the public is safe (you're on your own).

      Guess what doesn't happen since the airports are considered federal enclaves?

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        However... the x-ray machine in a private office is only ever aimed at customers of that office. As a customer, I could demand the calibration records, or refuse my business. Maybe they show them, maybe they don't (they probably do...and tell the story of the oddball for years)... but the point is.... these are aimed at the public. They stand in the way of using a publicly available transportation resource.

        As such, I think that is a strong case for making the records public.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:41PM (#38079482)

    Questionable agency with questionable methods disapproves of mandate to test the questionable efficacy and questionable safety of their questionable equipment.

    Seriously, is this a surprise? The public support for the intrusiveness of the tsa is dwindling rapidly, and a bombshell like "airport and transit station scanners linked with cancer" would set fire to that particularly nasty powderkeg.

    Of course they want to ostritch headplant and hum to themselves rather than operate reputably! Their entire operation is a farce all the way down!

  • Back in the days of Tuskeege, the government thought it only get away with conducting deadly experiments on blacks. Later it figured it could get away with doing it to conscripted troops.

    Now it has no problem doing it to us all.

  • by Symbha (679466) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:57PM (#38079702)

    Repost cuz I can't stand being a coward:

    Why is it that I can't just put one in my pocket and go through the machine to find out?
    You know, For Science!

    • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc&carpanet,net> on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @08:02PM (#38080472) Homepage

      Honestly... I think someone needs to talk to some hospital workers. Any hospital could easily help with this, and could probably be convinced to do it for cost just for the fact that this really is a public service to test. Even if not, there are a lot of people in healthcare who need to wear them, so theres many options there.

      My mother wore a dosimeter for years. She was an x-ray tech and was told on her first day of training "By choosing this job, you are taking 10 years off your life". Thats probably less true now. Hers was just a piece of film in a plastic case. Every once in a while they get collected and developed. Cumulative dose over time is measured and sometimes resulted in some extra mandatory vacation. um... w00t? :/

      Sure its simple, you can make one, or buy them, but, having them processed by someone who is competent to do it, and can stand by their results is key for something like this. If someone at the local Hospital radiology department wanted to help, they could put this issue to rest... without much problem. Anybody can claim numbers on a device, anybody can say they developed their own film and calculated the dose.... but people who do it every day can give you results that are harder to ignore.

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        Also, you probably need to get both inside and outside measurements... if you could get a TSA worker by the machine to wear one in their pocket for a few weeks, that would be a very useful measurement.

    • by mspohr (589790)
      There's an app for that!

      Check out the Google app market for the Hotray Radiation counter or the web site:

      www.hotray-info.de

    • by cbope (130292) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @06:54AM (#38083714)

      Problem is, that's a very unscientific way to measure the radiation dose and very inaccurate.

      The main problem with determining dose to the body from ionizing radiation is that different tissues and organs of the body absorb radiation in different ways. Additionally, some tissues and organs are more sensitive to cellular damage that could potentially lead to cancer more than others. And finally, the absorption is also heavily dependent on the energy levels and spectra of the radiation itself. Some types of radiation are basically harmless and pass through the body without being absorbed. Other types are heavily absorbed and can lead to health impacts.

      Accurate does measurement is challenging and even among experts in the field there are differing opinions how to weight the different measurements and come up with an accurate dose representation that translates into meaningful risk assessment.

      As an engineer working in the medical imaging field over 20 years, I'm well versed in radiation safety and the effects of radiation on biological processes. These backscatter machines should have NEVER been put into public use. There is literally zero scientific evidence on their efficacy for intended use and safety for both the operator and subject being scanned. In medical imaging, the doctor makes an assessment of risk vs. benefit when deciding to take an X-ray on the patient. If the benefits outweigh the risks, then the X-ray is justified. The major problem with these scanners is that the risk is unknown due to lack of studies validating the safety of the scanners and the population is being unnecessarily exposed to ionizing radiation without a medical reason to do so. This is purely security theater at its finest. I would never voluntarily submit to being scanned by one of these machines, especially with my background knowledge in radiation. If the US government were to decide that use of these scanners is mandatory, then I would cease all travel to/from/within the US by air. As an American living abroad, the end result is alienation by my own government. I for one am glad that the EU will not allow their use, so I may safely travel by air throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

      How much longer are you going to tolerate this in the US? You are marching swiftly towards a completely corporate.fascist.militarist state and nobody seems to notice.

  • Install one ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @08:29PM (#38080788)

    ... in the TSA headquarters employee entrance.

  • They're perfectly safe, but ball fondling causes cancer.
  • In order to protect our citizens from terrorism, we had to sterilize them.

Put no trust in cryptic comments.

Working...