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Facts on the two types of airport Whole Body Imaging

Rafi Sala, an Israeli airport security expert who helped design security at Ben Gurion International Airport: “I don”t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747. … That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport.”

Peek-a-Boo, I C U – Living Lake Country, By Al Neuhauser Nov. 25, 2010……….There are two types of Whole Body Imaging (WBI) technologies in place. They are backscatter and millimeter-wave. The first uses low-level X-rays to image the body. This passes through clothing and into you, but a portion reflects off of your skin, or “backscatters”, technically called “Compton scattering.” This radiation does penetrate, but a small amount reflects and is detected by a bank of detectors. The data are computer processed to create a whole-body image. Frontal and rear images are usually obtained simultaneously. The resulting two-part image is of the subject’s skin surface, all of it, in excruciating fine detail. The processing software blanks out facial features.

It must be acknowledged that this is X-ray radiation, which is ionizing radiation. That is, it penetrates atoms and cells and can modify or damage them. Hence, it is designated by the government–EPA?, CDC?, CPSC? I’m not sure who–as a non-threshold carcinogen. This means no level is low enough to be 100% safe. Even though the amount of radiation is small–comparable to what we are subjected to in everyday life–this energy is focused on the skin and adds to the normal background radiation from the Sun and other sources. Cell damage from ionizing radiation is permanent, so the risk, again very slight, is cumulative. Therefore, despite assurances from the TSA and others, radiation from airport backscatter body scanners is not totally innocuous. There is a very tiny added risk of genetic damage. Again, the question is, is it worth it?The other technology is millimeter wave. This method utilizes Extra-High Frequency (EHF) radiation in the range of 30 GHz– think microwave on steroids–to create an image. EHF radiation will penetrate clothing but reflects off of skin which it does not significantly penetrate. Thus, there is no risk of genetic damage but it can burn. At the levels employed by the airport scanners, this is highly unlikely unless you fall asleep in one. Unfortunately, this safer technology is the less common. I’m not sure why, but it might the state of development or perhaps the cost…………

The health risk from backscatter scans is minimal. There is a very small possibility of genetic damage, no more than might be experienced in some other activities. However, it is an additional exposure exacerbated by the focused nature of the radiation. So, there is an undeniable very slight risk, especially with repeated exposure as the effect is cumulative. There is no known risk from millimeter-wave scanning, unless you believe that cell phones cause brain cancer……….

Finally, I leave you with a quote from Rafi Sala, an Israeli airport security expert who helped design security at Ben Gurion International Airport: “I don”t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747. … That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport.”

El-Al, Israel’s airline, relies on sophisticated profiling techniques. They haven’t had a terrorist incident since 1970, and that one failed.

Peek-a-Boo, I C U – Living Lake Country

November 26, 2010 - Posted by | health, technology, USA | , , ,

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