The scanners are safe until they aren’t

201012302141.jpg by ARTS

TSA Claims Naked Scanners Are Safe, But Exaggerated How They Make Sure That’s True
[Via Techdirt]

I’ve said in the past that of all the complaints with the TSA’s naked scanners, the one that initially concerned me the least was the “safety” claims about the x-rays used in the scanners. However, the more I hear, the more questionable it is to believe the TSA’s claims that the machines are safe. As a bunch of you sent in over the past few weeks (but which I just had a chance to read through completely), the TSA is being exceptionally misleading when it claims that the machines are harmless, because it includes a little caveat that most people miss which potentially changes everything.

That is, it claims that the machines are perfectly safe “when they’re working properly.” But as AOL’s senior public health reporter discovered, “the TSA offers no proof that anyone is checking to see if the machines are ‘working properly.'” Well, it pretends to offer proof, in saying that a variety of groups, including the FDA, the US Army, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and something called the Health Physics Society all work with the TSA to make sure the devices are safe. But, Schreiber contacted all the groups listed and found that it’s not what you’d think. Those groups do not make sure that the machines are properly maintained and calibrated. Basically, it sounds like most of these groups tested or examined one or a small number of these machines — often not the ones actually installed at the airport, to see if, conceptually, the machines are safe. But none of them have anything to do with making sure the machines are maintained and calibrated safely, such that passenger safety is not put at risk. In fact, one of the groups listed — the Health Physics Society — noted that the TSA actually refused to provide data that the TSA collects on radiation exposure from the scanners.


I’ve written about this before – machines that are fine in the lab may not be fine in the airport. We have no way of knowing which is worrisome.

And the ones who should be most worried should be the TSA workers.