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Arch Intern Med. 2011 Jun 27;171(12):1112-5. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.105. Epub 2011 Mar 28.

Airport full-body screening: what is the risk?

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Department of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA.


In the past year, the Transportation Security Administration has deployed full-body scanners in airports across the United States in response to heightened security needs. Several groups have opposed the scans, citing privacy concerns and fear of the radiation emitted by the backscatter x-ray scanners, 1 of the 2 types of machines in use. The radiation doses emitted by the scans are extremely small; the scans deliver an amount of radiation equivalent to 3 to 9 minutes of the radiation received through normal daily living. Furthermore, since flying itself increases exposure to ionizing radiation, the scan will contribute less than 1% of the dose a flyer will receive from exposure to cosmic rays at elevated altitudes. The estimation of cancer risks associated with these scans is difficult, but using the only available models, the risk would be extremely small, even among frequent flyers. We conclude that there is no significant threat of radiation from the scans.

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