This is not the type of technology I set out to write about, but I feel I have to get the message out any way I can. A couple of days ago, I came across an open letter from a group of distinguished biophysicists warning of potentially serious health risks (read, “cancer”) from the new airport X-ray scanners the TSA wants all passengers to go through. It’s only 3 pages; I encourage you to read it yourself.

Basically, the highlights are:

  • “these new airport scanners are largely depositing their energy into the skin and immediately adjacent tissue, and since this is such a small fraction of body weight/vol … the real dose to the skin is now high”
  • “In addition, it appears that real independent safety data do not exist.”
  • “Because this device can scan a human in a few seconds, the X-ray beam is very intense. Any glitch in power at any point in the hardware (or more importantly in software) that stops the device could cause an intense radiation dose to a single spot on the skin.”

Concerned yet? Passengers are supposed to have the right to opt of of going through the scanner, but the alternative is a “rigorous” pat-down search that encompasses all the private areas of the body.

So, I strongly urge my readers (both of you) to make an informed choice about whether to submit to radiation exposure simply to get on board an airplane. The ACLU has a fact sheet explaining your options.