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TSA Backtracks On Body Scanner Radiation Study Promise

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Cancer causing machines are formally banned throughout Europe

Steve Watson
November 16, 2011

In a move we predicted the moment the words left his mouth, TSA head John Pistole has reneged on a promise to the Senate to instigate further studies into the safety of radiation firing body scanners.

A fortnight ago, Pistole told a Senate homeland security committee hearing that the agency will commission further independent research into the safety risks associated with full body scanners currently in use in almost all major airports in the U.S.

“I am concerned that there’s a perception that they’re not as safe as they could be,” Pistole said after claiming that independent studies have already proven the technology safe.

Now Pistole has changed his mind, however, suggesting that a forthcoming inspector general’s report validates earlier conclusions that the machines are not harmful and negates the need for further study.

In a new Senate hearing held earlier this week, Pistole stated:

“My strong belief is those types of machines are still completely safe… If the determination is that this IG study is not sufficient, then I will look at still yet another additional study.”

Pistole repeated the claim to CNN, stating:

“…there are those who continue to express concerns, and so I want to do everything that I can to reassure those people that these machines are as safe as possible.”

“That being said, I just learned about an inspector general report that is in draft form that validates those prior studies, so that may suffice,” Pistole said. “We’ll work with Congress to see whether that addresses their concerns.”

Of course, it is hardly surprising that the TSA is backtracking. Pistole has previously made promises in testimony before the Senate, regarding TSA policy, that have simply been later ignored, forgotten about and flouted.

As the CNN article highlights, the IG report, still weeks away from release, only focuses on how the TSA monitors and maintains the backscatter machines, rather than the safety aspects associated with them.

“What I asked for — and what the administrator committed to — was an independent study on the health effects of AIT (advanced imaging technology) machines, not just a study on whether TSA is doing an adequate job of inspecting, maintaining and operating AIT machines, which I understand is the approach of the inspector general’s report” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in a written statement.

“I hope the Obama administration is not backing away from an independent study,”Collins said, noting, “Travelers are concerned that the radiation emitted from these machines may be damaging to passengers’ health.”

The issue of body scanner safety was once again thrust into the spot light recently with the publication of a report by ProPublica, in conjunction with PBS NewsHour, detailing how the “U.S. Government Glossed Over Cancer Concerns” as it rolled out the scanners into airports.

The other major finding to come from the report indicated that the Food and Drug Administration went against the advice of a 1998 expert panel, which recommended the agency set a mandatory federal safety standard for the machines. Several members of that panel said they were concerned about widespread use of X-ray scanners, including in airports.

At the beginning of this week, the European Commission formally adopted guidelines prohibiting the use of X-ray body scanners utilizing ionizing radiation in European airports.

“In order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety, only security scanners which do not use X-ray technology are added to the list of authorized methods for passenger screening at EU airports.” a press release reads.

With this in mind, Americans now have little excuse for tolerating what they are currently being subjected to at the hands of the TSA.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is currently locked in a battle to force the Department Of Homeland Security to disclose documents containing radiation testing results, agency fact sheets on body scanner radiation risks, and images produced by the machines.

EPIC has filed a motion for summary judgment in its ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the DHS.

EPIC previously obtained hundreds of pages of documents detailing the radiation risks presented by the machines.

The documents revealed that the TSA, and specifically the head of the Department of Homeland Security, “publicly mischaracterized” the findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in stating that NIST had positively confirmed the safety of full body scanners in tests.

The documents, including internal TSA emails, also revealed that TSA employees are greatly concerned by a surge in cancer cases among their number. Agents stationed at Boston Logan airport directly voiced their concerns to a TSA representative who promised to relay them to TSA headquarters.

The TSA has thus far refused to address the scores of real independent scientists who have continued to speak out over the health hazards associated with the x-ray technology, noting that the body scanners are far from safe.

Numerous highly respected universities and health bodies, including Johns HopkinsColumbia University, the University of California, and the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety, have all warned that the health threat posed by the scanners has not been properly studied and could lead to increased cancer rates.

John Sedat, a University of California at San Francisco professor of biochemistry and biophysics and member of the National Academy of Sciences told CNet that the machines have “mutagenic effects” and will increase the risk of cancer. Sedat previously sent a letter to the White House science Czar John P. Holdren, identifying the specific risk the machines pose to children and the elderly.

The letter stated:

“it appears that real independent safety data do not exist… There has not been sufficient review of the intermediate and long-term effects of radiation exposure associated with airport scanners. There is good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations.”

The TSA has repeatedly stated that going through the machines is equal to the radiation encountered during just two minutes of a flight. However, this does not take into account that the scanning machines specifically target only the skin and the muscle tissue immediately beneath.

The scanners are similar to C-Scans and fire ionizing radiation at those inside which penetrates a few centimeters into the flesh and reflects off the skin to form a naked body image.

The firing of ionizing radiation at the body effectively “unzips” DNA, according to scientific research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The research shows that even very low doses of X-ray can delay or prevent cellular repair of damaged DNA, yet pregnant women and children will be subjected to the process as new guidelines including scanners are adopted.

The Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety concluded in their report on the matter 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.

Scientists at Columbia University have also entered the debate, warning that the dose emitted by the naked x-ray devices could be up to 20 times higher than originally estimated, likely contributing to an increase in a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma which affects the head and neck.

“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 Dr David Brenner, head of Columbia University’s centre for radiological research.

In related news, a Congressional report released this week to mark the tenth anniversary of the TSA, has labeled the agency an “ineffective” “bloated bureaucracy”, concluding that it has done nothing to improve aviation security.

Drawing on the deployment of failed technology that has wasted millions of dollars, the report also declared that 500 Advanced Imaging Technology devices have been deployed throughout the nation in a “haphazard and easily thwarted manner”.


Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.net, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.

This article was posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 9:49 am

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