Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Gov Lies About TSA Body Scanner Safety No Big Shock
A government report on the safety of TSA naked body scanners, cited as newly authoritative by TSA head John Pistole, merely repeats old and questionable information that has been available on the TSA’s website for two years.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, concludes that each backscatter radiation machine being used by the TSA “delivers an extremely low dose of ionizing radiation” with levels “below the acceptable limits”.
“Specifically, to reach annual radiation dose limits, a passenger would have to receive more than approximately 17,000 screenings in a 12-month period, which is equivalent to approximately 47 screenings per day, 365 days per year.”
However, those claims are drawn from an old Johns Hopkins University assessment dating from August 2010, and use yearly limits of radiation set by the American National Standards Institute.
The figures cited are purely calculations and are not drawn from any scientific evidence. Dozens of radiologists and scientists have warned that decades of research has not established any dose of radiation as safe.
Indeed, even Johns Hopkins scientists have warned that the TSA body scanners will lead to an increase in cancers.
Despite this, and an admission in the DHS report that the body scanners have not been regularly tested to ensure they are calibrated correctly, the TSA says the report vindicates earlier statements that the machines are safe.
“We believe this report fully endorses TSA’s extensive efforts to keep the traveling public safe, which is our agency’s ultimate priority,” TSA Administrator John Pistole wrote in response to the report.
Pistole himself cited the report when the TSA head reneged on a promise to the Senate to instigate further studies into the safety of the radiation firing scanners.
Pistole had promised to commission further independent research into the safety risks associated with full body scanners, following a Europe wide ban on the machines.
However, within two weeks the TSA head had backtracked, saying the upcoming IG report would contain new findings and that further study was unnecessary at this time.
As it turns out, unsurprisingly, the report simply regurgitates the same unsubstantiated claims the TSA has been making for two years.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who introduced legislation to require independent radiation tests of the X-ray scanners, has reiterated her position.
Milly Rodriguez, a health and safety specialist at The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) said that the inspector general report “essentially has no new information as far as we are concerned.”
The AFGE, which represents thousands of TSA workers, is concerned that there have been no studies into the levels of radiation that operators of the scanners are being subjected to.
Despite numerous reports suggesting that the TSA had agreed to buy equipment to test employees for radiation exposure, the agency itself later announced it has no intention of doing so.
The LA Times reported that the agency was planning to equip its security officers with individual radiation dosimeters, to test the levels of radiation they were being exposed to from backscatter x-ray body scanners.
However, a post from the TSA’s official blog said that the Times report “missed the mark” and that there was no need for further testing.
Scrutiny over radiation exposure was heightened recently following apparent efforts by the TSA to cover-up a “cluster” of cancer cases amongst scanner operators at Boston-Logan airport.
According to FOIA documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), when Union representatives in Boston discovered a “cancer cluster” amongst TSA workers linked with radiation from the body scanners, the TSA sought to downplay the matter and refused to issue employees with dosimeters to measure levels of exposure.
The documents indicated how, “A large number of workers have been falling victim to cancer, strokes and heart disease.”
In addition, further documents obtained by EPIC show how the TSA “publicly mischaracterized” findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in stating that the agency had positively confirmed the safety of full body scanners in tests.
Numerous other studies conducted by prestigious universities and health authorities, including Columbia University, the University of California, and the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety, have warned that the devices will lead to an increase in cancers.
Despite the fact that almost every independent study has concluded that the machines will cause cancer cases to increase, the TSA routinely denies the threat.
The DHS is also set to expand the use of X-ray scanning machines at US border crossings, despite the availability of millimeter-wave machines that do the same job without emitting harmful radiation.