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DHS’ X-ray scanners could be cancer risk to border crossers

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Declan McCullagh
CNet
January 13, 2012

Internal Homeland Security documents describing specifications for border-crossing scanners, which emit gamma or X-ray radiation to probe vehicles and their occupants, are raising new health and privacy concerns, CNET has learned.

Even though a public outcry has prompted Homeland Security to move away from adding X-ray machines to airports–it purchased 300 body scanners last year that used alternative technologyinstead–it appears to be embracing them at U.S.-Mexico land border crossings as an efficient way to detect drugs, currency, and explosives.

A 63-page set of specifications (PDF), heavily redacted, obtained by theElectronic Privacy Information Centerthrough the Freedom of Information Act, says the scanners must “be based on X-Ray or gamma technology,” which use potentially dangerous ionizing radiation at high energies, and “shall be capable of scanning cars, SUVs, motorcycles and busses.”

“Society will pay a huge price in cancer because of this,” John Sedat, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco, told CNET. Sedat has raised concernsabout the health risks of X-ray scanners, and the European Commission in November prohibitedtheir use in European airports.

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This article was posted: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 4:35 am





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