Columbia University: Body Scanners Increase Risk Of Skin CancerX-ray dose up to 20 times higher than originally estimated – more evidence that devices are dangerous, illegal, and need to be removed from airports immediately
Paul Joseph Watson
Jun. 29, 2010
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Airport body scanners could lead to an increase in skin cancers according to scientists at Columbia University, who warn that the dose emitted by the naked x-ray devices could be up to 20 times higher than originally estimated, in another clear example of how the scanners are completely illegal, dangerous to public health, and need to be removed immediately.
Dr David Brenner, head of Columbia University’s centre for radiological research, warns that children and people with gene mutations whose bodies are less able to repair damage to their DNA are most at risk.
“If all 800 million people who use airports every year were screened with X-rays then the very small individual risk multiplied by the large number of screened people might imply a potential public health or societal risk. The population risk has the potential to be significant,” said Brenner.
Brenner’s research shows that the scanners will likely contribute to an increase in a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma which affects the head and neck.
“If there are increases in cancers as a result of irradiation of children, they would most likely appear some decades in the future. It would be prudent not to scan the head and neck,” added Brenner.
Brenner has urged medical authorities to look at his work, pointing to the dangerous notion of mass scanning millions of people without proper oversight.
“There really is no other technology around where we’re planning to X-ray such an enormous number of individuals. It’s really unprecedented in the radiation world,” said Brenner.
Similar concerns to those explored in the Columbia University study were voiced back in February by the influential Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety, who warned in a report that the scanners increase the risk of cancer and birth defects and should not be used on pregnant women or children.
Despite governments claiming that backscatter x-ray systems produce radiation too low to pose a threat, the organization concluded in their report that governments must justify the use of the scanners and that a more accurate assessment of the health risks is needed.
Pregnant women and children should not be subject to scanning, according to the report, adding that governments should consider "other techniques to achieve the same end without the use of ionizing radiation."
"The Committee cited the IAEA's 1996 Basic Safety Standards agreement, drafted over three decades, that protects people from radiation. Frequent exposure to low doses of radiation can lead to cancer and birth defects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," reported Bloomberg.
In the United States, people can refuse the body scanner and opt for an aggressive and intrusive hand-search, but people traveling out of the UK and other areas of Europe don’t even get the choice – they are forced to go through the scanner if asked and cannot refuse or they are banned from traveling. Despite the media reporting universal acceptance of the scanners, in reality 600 formal complaints had been made about the devices in the first two months of their usage alone.
The alarming health concerns surrounding body scanners have been equaled by the shaky legality of the devices. In the UK, the scanners break child porn laws which forbid the production of indecent images of children, but the UK transport authorities have broken the law and mandated that children be required to pass through the machines.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also wrote a letter to the UK government warning that the scanners broke privacy laws.
As we have highlighted, not only do the body scanners pose health risks but they also violate the fundamental human right of the innocent to be protected against strip-searches.
Despite official denials that the images produced by the devices show details of genitalia, journalists who have investigated trials of the technology have reported that details of sexual organs are "eerily visible".
Indeed, as we have previously highlighted, when the scanners were first introduced at Australian airports in 2008 it was admitted that the X-ray backscatter devices don't work properly unless the genitals of people going through them are visible. "It will show the private parts of people, but what we've decided is that we're not going to blur those out, because it severely limits the detection capabilities," said Melbourne Airport's Office of Transport Security manager Cheryl Johnson.
Attempts to keep this under wraps by lying about the images produced are an effort to head off challenges to the legality of the devices. Historically, civil lawsuits where an individual has been strip searched by a member of the opposite sex have proven to be successful in North America.
Courts have consistently found that strip searches are only legal when performed on a person who has already been found guilty of a crime or on arrestees pending trial where a reasonable suspicion has to exist that they are carrying a weapon. Subjecting masses of people to blanket strip searches in airports reverses the very notion of innocent until proven guilty.
Barring people from flying and essentially treating them like terrorists for refusing to be humiliated by the virtual strip search is a clear breach of the basic human right of freedom of movement.
Several examples of airport security staff abusing the use of the devices have already come to light since their introduction earlier this year.
Indian film star Shahrukh Khan told a BBC talk show that naked images of his body from the scanner were printed out and circulated by airport staff at Heathrow in London. Heathrow denied the claim but Khan himself never retracted the story, and had no apparent motive for making it up.
Heathrow authorities were unable to deny a later example of the scanners being abused, when it emerged that a Heathrow worker had perved over a naked image of a female colleague after she passed through one of the devices, before commenting, "I love those gigantic tits".
Jo Margetson, 29, reported John Laker, 25, to the police after she had entered the x-ray machine by mistake and Laker took the image before making lewd comments.
In Miami, a TSA worker in Miami attacked a colleague who had made fun of his small penis after he passed through a scanner device. The story again emphasized the fact that authorities were brazenly lying in claiming that the images produced by the devices did not show intimate details of genitalia.