We don't know for sure exactly what the outputs of the individual machines are, the wavelengths and other radiological information. In addition there are at least three types of machines.
The conventional wisdom by the people who vouch for these machines is "there is no danger whatsoever".
I'm not quite so sure we can make that assumption. All x-ray radiation can damage cellular structure. That fact has been well established.
Decades ago, those same physicians maintained that air crewmen could fly reconnaissance missions on the old Soviet with radar emiting aircraft and work on the DEW line with complete safety. It turned out many airman developed radiation-induced cataracts.
There is a lot of money behind these machines, and a lot of people have an incentive to say they are "safe", but as far as I'm concerned the jury is still out.
In addition simple thermal imaging can accomplish the same thing without any side effects. The Israeli's don't use the machines. And they cannot detect explosives.
First of all, I am not a doctor. I am, however, a hazardous materials responder with intensive training in radiological (radiation) response. Radiation is one of the most feared yet least understood things that we come in contact with during our lives. Hopefully I can give you some information that is helpful.
It is important to understand that there are two types of radiation, ionizing and non-ionizing. When we think of radiation making us sick, we are almost thinking of ionizing radiation. It is this type of high energy radiation that can change the makeup of our cells causing cancer and other long term effects. X-rays are a common example of ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation is only harmful in the short term. For example, microwaves and radio waves are common examples of non-ionizing radiation. You would not want to put yourself in a microwave on high power, but, if you survived, there would be no future effects worse than the immediate burns and tissue damage. The microwave will not give you cancer.
There are two types of technology used in these new scanners. The first is a millimeter wave radar (radio waves) and the second is an X-ray technology. Using what you've just learned about radiation, you can see that the millimeter wave radar uses non-ionizing radiation and thus is harmless (except possible to your dignity ;>). The X-ray machines do use ionizing radiation and thus may cause problems with repeated exposure. I think, however, that the likelihood of this is very small for the following reason.
Any time you fly in an airplane, you are above most of the Earth's atmosphere. It is this atmosphere that protects us from harmful radiation from the sun. The amount of radiation exposure from the airport scanner is likely only a very small fraction of your total radiation exposure during your flight and is probably not much different than a medical X-ray.
To sum it all up, I would not have any concern putting myself through one of these scanners, regardless of which technology they use. Even if you fly every day, the accumulated lifetime dosages of these machines are probably small enough to be statistically insignificant. That does not mean though that there is "zero" chance of something happening. Remember that you always have the option of the pat-down if you are that concerned.
One last note on caregiver's response. Thermal imaging technology is completely different. I use this tech on a daily basis. It is a misconception that thermal can see through clothes, walls, etc. Hollywood likes to make it that way, but it just isn't so. Believe me when I say that there are still those in the world that are out to get us. These scanners seem to be the best compromise between dignity and security that we have at the moment. Other countries (Israel) may not use these same machines, but I think you would find that they perform many tests that we would not allow. (Israel uses profiling to a huge degree and we all know that profiling is a big no-no in the US.)
I hope that this gave you some information that is helpful.
The problem is with x-ray equipment. Including medical x-rays.
All x-rays damage cells as they pass through the structure, This damage may result in birth defects. The probability of such an event increases with the duration of exposure. I am particularly upset at the scanning of young and pregnant females.
There is no safe threshold of exposure for a female of child bearing age. Period. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.
In addition x-rays damage the telomeres and other structures, which may result in a malignancy. I say "may". I am not chicken little.
These scanners cannot detect many combinations of explosives.
I am not going to outline all the scenarios for downing an airliner, but this entire scanning procedure is one hundred percent worthless against someone willing to sacrifice their own life. Because we have people running our justice systemn who could not pour water out of a boot with directions on a heel a terrorist who killed 254 people was aquitted because the criminal justice system in the United States would not admit the testimony of the person who sold him the explosives.
I would submit to a pat-down, but not a scan. The government does not have the right to hazard the right of an unborn child with such scans. I will grant the risk is minimal, but for those females who must fly frequently, such as air couriers, it is very real.
Thermal imaging equipment is quite effective with certain types of clothing and ineffective with others. In any event such screening has psychological value.
And where is all going to stop? On trains and subways? In theatres? Let us remember what the terrorists did to the school in Moscow.
All this nonsense has no actual effect on air safety. Sure and swift punishment for those responsible and an international consensus to remove priviliged sanctuary for those nations who support terrorism is the answer. And military tribunals that treat such actions as acts of war and not "crimes" under a civilian system of criminal justice. With the punishment of death for all those responsible.
The scanners are NOT the "best compromise". They are the product of knee-jerk reactions by politicians. This is the same year a known terrorist responsible for the downing of an airliner waas released from a Scottish prison in return for the granting of oil leases to a politically connected oil company.
It is irresponsible to defend use of these x-ray screening machines.
I agree with caregiver that any X-ray exposure does carry some risk. Remember though that the millimeter wave radar scanners do not carry this same risk because their radiation is non-ionizing. It will be up to you to decide if it is worth the risk to be scanned in order to protect your modesty.
I also happen to agree with caregiver that there is no way to stop a truly dedicated terrorist who is willing to die to achieve their goal. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. Along those lines, TSA is doing the best they know how with the information they are given. Do I see security gaps? Yes. Do I think that they have a perfect or even the best solution? Absolutely not. It is useless for us to discuss the merits of this system (for or against) in this forum because it is the way it is and we're not going to change anything here on medhelp. Ultimately, it is up to you to make the decision for yourself. You can always avoid mass transit and drive yourself if you feel you need to.
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