Remember those dangerous TSA body scanners? The brouhaha last November over the TSA’s new security measures seems like a distant memory now. Among other objections raised by the critics, we heard dire warnings that the backscatter x-rays were dangerous to your health, which led many travelers to refuse to go through the scanners and opt for hand pat-downs instead that many found invasive.
Well, it turns out those warning about the dangers of full body scans were wrong. The Wall Street Journal reports that a new analysis, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, has determined that the scanners don’t pose a significant health risk to passengers:
Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco and one of the article’s authors, said the amount of radiation emitted by a full-body scan “is a drop in the bucket” compared to the amount of radiation used by X-rays and other medical-imaging procedures such as CT scans. The amount of radiation women would be exposed to from a mammogram is equal to 4,000 airport scans, while the amount from an abdominal CT scan would equal 200,000 airport scans.
Dr. Smith-Bindman said air travelers are exposed to far more radiation from flying, and that going through a full-body scan “is like one or two minutes on an airplane.” She noted everyone is exposed to radiation on a daily basis from the sun and the Earth. Flying increases the amount of radiation exposure from the sun.
You can read the full study here. Bottom line: If your plane circles the airport for a few extra minutes waiting for a free runway, you are exposed to far more extra radiation than you’d go through in a TSA scanner. Of course, this news won’t assuage those who oppose full-body scans on ethical grounds. But for those concerned with health, if you don’t want the TSA to “touch your junk,” it’s perfectly safe to go through the scanner instead.