November 28, 2010

Biochemist Raises Questions about Nude-o-Scopes [rdbrewer]
— Open Blogger

Jason Bell, a biochemist working in biophysics.


Chromosome Damage From Radiation

On the significance of the type of radiation used:

The TSA has been stating that the X-rays used in the back scatter machines use 'soft' X-rays, which are defined as radiation between 0.12-12 keV (or kilo electron volts) and are generally stopped, or absorbed, by soft tissue or low density matter. 'Hard' X-rays are between 12-128 keV and are absorbed by dense matter like bone. According to the TSA safety documents, AIT uses an 50 keV source that emits a broad spectra (see adjacent graph from here). Essentially, this means that the X-ray source used in the Rapiscan system is the same as those used for mammograms and some dental X-rays, and uses BOTH 'soft' and 'hard' X-rays. Its very disturbing that the TSA has been misleading on this point. Here is the real catch: the softer the X-ray, the more its absorbed by the body, and the higher the biologically relevant dose! This means, that this radiation is potentially worse than an a higher energy medical chest X-ray.

(Emphasis mine.) He has several concerns about the power of the machines in question:

  • Based on the limited engineering schematics released in the safety documents, the machines could be easily reconfigured to perform through-the-body X-rays, and the hardware has the capability to output high doses of radiation though failure or both authorized and unauthorized reconfiguration of software and hardware.
  • The X-ray beam is being rastered across the body--that is, scanned in lines from side to side, top to bottom, like a TV screen. If the machine fails or gets stuck during a pass, there is a possibility a person's eye, testicle, or hand, for example, could receive a dangerous dose of X-rays.
  • This possibility gives rise to certain questions: What is the failure rate of these machines? What is the failure rate in an operational environment? Who services the machine? What is the decay rate of the filter? What is the decay rate of the shielding material?
  • Also, what is the variability in the power of the X-ray source during the manufacturing process? The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory noted a significant disparity in their test models--which were supposed to be adjusted to exact specifications.

On the widely publicized claim that radiation from the machines amounts to the same exposure one would receive after two to three minutes of flight:

With respect to errors in the safety reports and/or misleading information about them, the statement that one scan is equivalent to 2-3 minutes of your flight is VERY misleading. Most cosmic radiation is composed of high energy particles that passes right through our body, the plane and even most of the earth itself without being absorbed or even detected. The spectrum that is dangerous is known as ionizing radiation and most of that is absorbed by the hull of the airplane. So relating non-absorbing cosmic radiation to tissue absorbing man-made radiation is simply misleading and wrong.

Much more at the link, including questions raised by scientists about the lack of testing and safety data provided by the government and/or the manufacturers and the lack of independent testing and data. He also points out how stingy the release of information has been, with many things redacted in the material that has been made available. Why?

Link via BoingBoing.

Posted by: Open Blogger at 07:01 PM | Comments (110)
Post contains 566 words, total size 4 kb.

1 I wonder what this would mean for the people like flight attendants who fly so often. It just seems that they could get enough background on airline employees, where they wouldn't need to be scanned over and over.

Posted by: nerdygirl at November 28, 2010 07:08 PM (UAftU)

2 On the upside, anyone who gets cancer or the like, and has flown since these machines went in, has a lawsuit in waiting against the US Government/Airport/Manufacturer.

Posted by: Laurie David's Cervix at November 28, 2010 07:17 PM (6bDVD)

3 Sounds like a classic business buys off the politicians/regulators gig. Fuckers.

Posted by: eman at November 28, 2010 07:17 PM (kn74g)

4 Hey, GOP House, what's on your agenda?

Posted by: eman at November 28, 2010 07:18 PM (kn74g)

5 It seems the real problem is that the millimeter wave manufacturers didn't hire Chertoff fast enough or offer enough money to ensure that the safety and logistical issues associated with the backscatter machines didn't get swept under the rug in the hysteria.  Lesson learned.

Posted by: Jean at November 28, 2010 07:19 PM (CPefM)

6 Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said Sunday evening that his country has got an 85-billion-euro ( 113 billion U.S. dollars) bailout loan from the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at an average interest rate of 5.8 percent. Tory Burch Flip Flops Tory Burch Sandals

Posted by: torulewye at November 28, 2010 07:20 PM (yL0f4)

7 It doesn't even matter if they are set at the .12 to 12 level, because as noted a glitch in the software or non-maintenance can give you a pretty good blast.  And we all know how careful and efficient they are.

Posted by: Guy Fawkes at November 28, 2010 07:20 PM (JcRgg)

8 This has to be picked up by Pager and Fumento. Also, Hullbuzz had a post on this and Soros' ivolvement; thought it was hyperbole.

Posted by: parisparamus at November 28, 2010 07:22 PM (B+w8R)

9 FINALLY!!! We can properly inspect Sarah Palin's girly parts!

Posted by: Andrew Sullivan at November 28, 2010 07:25 PM (wMXoq)

10 X-ray sources are usually always kept on and shutters are used to keep the beam isolated. If the shutters and safety interlocks fail, the radiation blasts out. Do the TSA workers wear dosimeters? They should. Travelers should too.

Posted by: eman at November 28, 2010 07:25 PM (kn74g)

11 But dogs and being asked questions by professional would be absolutely intolerable compared to being groped and getting cancer!!!!

Posted by: buzzion at November 28, 2010 07:25 PM (oVQFe)

12 If you're goina gamble with the chicken, don't forget about the lickin.

Posted by: humphreyrobot at November 28, 2010 07:26 PM (EiH7n)

13 Don't worry, those gropers at the TSA happen to be top notch x-ray experts. After all, Big Gubmint knows best! Oh, and did you know you can sometimes see bones

Posted by: Swanny at November 28, 2010 07:27 PM (lyOKm)

14 Uhm, on a more serious note, isn't that totally outside the acceptable exposure range for causing birth defects and miscarriages?

Posted by: Dr Jekyl at November 28, 2010 07:27 PM (wMXoq)

15 Parents can be prosecuted by the government for foolishly trusting the government.

Posted by: humphreyrobot at November 28, 2010 07:28 PM (EiH7n)

16 Plates coated with photosensitive chemicals kept in dark boxes will record stray x-rays.

Posted by: eman at November 28, 2010 07:29 PM (kn74g)

17 If these TSA clowns are so good at reading x-rays why do we need doctors? bingo! Part 2 of obamacare is already here!

Posted by: Dr Jekyl at November 28, 2010 07:29 PM (wMXoq)

18 10 X-ray sources are usually always kept on and shutters are used to keep the beam isolated.

If the shutters and safety interlocks fail, the radiation blasts out.

Do the TSA workers wear dosimeters?

They should. Travelers should too.

Posted by: eman at November 29, 2010 12:25 AM (kn74g)

I believe it was discussed the other day that the TSA workers are actually forbidden from wearing anything to indicate that they might be getting overexposed to harmful radiation.  I'm betting that its because the higher ups know that if there is any indication that the scanners could be dangerous people will refuse to go through them.

Posted by: buzzion at November 28, 2010 07:31 PM (oVQFe)

19 Ironic, isn't it, that if a parent subjected their child to this sort of radiation they would go to jail. But it's just fine and dandy for the government to do so. And then grope the child. In public. And strip search them. Kinda disturbing when you think about all the things the government can do to kids now.

Posted by: Dr Jekyl at November 28, 2010 07:31 PM (wMXoq)

20 The company that owns the scanners donated millions to the liberals.  Could this have something to do with them being chosen?

Posted by: Smorgasbord at November 28, 2010 07:32 PM (JBB4K)

21 Consider for a moment all the attention paid to the Stuxnet virus lately, then look at the potential of these machines. Then, go and buy a lifetime Greyhound pass. Fuck that noise!

Posted by: Russ at November 28, 2010 07:34 PM (bMxOC)

22 I believe it was discussed the other day that the TSA workers are actually forbidden from wearing anything to indicate that they might be getting overexposed to harmful radiation. I'm betting that its because the higher ups know that if there is any indication that the scanners could be dangerous people will refuse to go through them. Posted by: buzzion Well then they are in direct conflict with State and Federal safety regulations. I work with X-ray radiation and we must wear dosimeters.

Posted by: eman at November 28, 2010 07:34 PM (kn74g)

23 Senator should send their own children(or rent some) through the machines since i'm not smart enough to trust them. What would George Washington do?

Posted by: humphreyrobot at November 28, 2010 07:35 PM (EiH7n)

24

This has to be picked up by Pager and Fumento.

What's that mean, Paris?

Posted by: rdbrewer at November 28, 2010 07:36 PM (7hPoF)

25 Where are the Kos Kids who scream "Corporatism!" all day and night?

Posted by: eman at November 28, 2010 07:36 PM (kn74g)

26 sooner than later, someone will have to " put up or shut up".!

Posted by: Alaska trash at November 28, 2010 07:37 PM (GCl5B)

27 Isn't it amazing that fake fucktard scientists still are doubters? Does this racist not know that there is a scientific consensus that these machines are safe? Go ahead you racist, just try to publish your drivel anywhere ever again. Your career is already destroyed. We must therefore fake mountains of research using secret advanced models that we can't reveal to prove him wrong.

Posted by: Dr Jekyl at November 28, 2010 07:37 PM (wMXoq)

28

Do the TSA workers wear dosimeters?

Somebody said the other day that they weren't allowed to wear them.  I wonder if that's the case or whether they just don't supply them (and service them).

Posted by: rdbrewer at November 28, 2010 07:37 PM (7hPoF)

29 So, OSHA can shutdown a TSA operation.

Posted by: eman at November 28, 2010 07:38 PM (kn74g)

30 I wouldn't trust these TSA drones to operate a toaster oven.  And they are operating x-ray machines after minimal training?!

Posted by: butch at November 28, 2010 07:41 PM (RMiT+)

31 Dosimeters reveal a sudden acute exposure by changing appearance and record long term exposure. For the long term exposure the dosimeters are collected after a period of use and analyzed to reveal the accumulated exposure. Safety regs clearly demand constant monitoring of radiation exposure.

Posted by: eman at November 28, 2010 07:42 PM (kn74g)

32 Let me guess.
TSA worker don't wear a dosage badge, protective clothing, or stand behind protective shielding when the machine is in operation.
How much radiation are people getting exposed to just standing around?
Since radiation exposure is a cumulative affect sort like people who are always
tanning and get skin cancer or looking like an old leather couch.

Posted by: YIKES! at November 28, 2010 07:43 PM (zSAp9)

33 Gads.  Bell is, by his own admission, not a health physicist, radiation safety officer, etc., and it shows.

Most cosmic radiation is composed of high energy particles that passes right through our body, the plane and even most of the earth itself without being absorbed or even detected.

He's being a bit hinky himself when it comes to matters of radiation dose.  The particles that slide on through the Earth are chargeless neutrinos and no one but no one takes any dose from them or quotes any numbers as such.  Now, you *do* get a substantially higher dose at altitude than you do the typical 120 mRem/year (and the health physicists are quite careful to note that that dose is at sea level).   Metal shielding does help to some extent but nowhere does Bell cite any numbers that make any meaningful comparison.  Later in his article, he cites some numbers about dose to TSA workers from the scanners themselves but it's never clear just which set of numbers he using are, in fact, correct.  And the ones he uses differ by a factor of ten.  And even though Bell notes that for all intents and purpose, TSA workers are working with radiation producing devices, he uses the civilian population 100 mRem/yr dose limit, rather than the higher values used by radworkers.

This whole affair is turning into a gigantic mess in terms of meaningful information and Bell's not particularly helping the situation here.

Posted by: Additional Blond Agent at November 28, 2010 07:43 PM (SHKl9)

34

Posted by: rdbrewer at November 29, 2010 12:36 AM (7hPoF)

Forgive the Android phone spelling on the street.


Dennis Prager and Michael Fumento, the later being the former's kind of science panic go to guy (to de-bunk them).  Prager doesn't have a problem with the machines because the images they supposedly generate are impersonal (you don't know who the person is); and Fumento, who is pretty good imho, kind of signed onto the few minutes of flying dose equivalent theory. 

I emailed a link to this post to DP and his producer, and hopefully this scientists blog post will get to DP somehow.


(OT: there appears to be a Prager-Palin alliance building, which somewhat surprises me, and delights me at the same time; alas DP isn't a Romney fan ;-( )

Posted by: ParisParamus at November 28, 2010 07:43 PM (gMzAL)

35 Where is this 'balance of power' in our government? I feel like Gunny in Full Metal Jacket. Why is Private Pyle out of his bunk after lights out?! Why is Private Pyle holding that weapon? Why aren't you stomping Private Pyle's guts out?

Posted by: humphreyrobot at November 28, 2010 07:46 PM (EiH7n)

36 These TSA folks, whatever else they may be, are guinea pigs.

Posted by: eman at November 28, 2010 07:46 PM (kn74g)

37 "Dosimeters"  Not very macho-sounding if you ask me.

Posted by: ParisParamus at November 28, 2010 07:46 PM (gMzAL)

38 Badges?  We don need no steekin' badges.

Posted by: John Pistole at November 28, 2010 07:49 PM (7hPoF)

39 Always fly with a butt plug and strap-on properly in place.

Posted by: eman at November 28, 2010 07:51 PM (kn74g)

40 Sure, the risk is probably small. But it's *mandatory* risk.

Also, when you think of failure rates, most medical scanners don't get used SEVERAL THOUSAND times a day.

As I've said about 100 gazillion times, they're securing the smallest risk area at airports and ignoring everything else, THAT'S the problem.

Posted by: Merovign, Strong on His Mountain at November 28, 2010 07:53 PM (bxiXv)

41

I wonder what they use to guide the beams, to raster them.  I mean, f/x, in the old tube-type TV days you'd occasionally see a picture that stopped scanning, with a line across the middle or just a dot.  And you'd see that every time you switched the TV off--for a few seconds, anyway.  Tube-type TVs used magnets to guide an electron beam.  So.  Like I said, I wonder what guides the X-ray beam.  Something mechanical?

And.  I wonder how easy it is to twiddle the machine settings, whether accidentally or on purpose. 

I wouldn't want to stand by one for long hours.  At least until they're thoroughly tested.

Posted by: John Pistole at November 28, 2010 07:55 PM (7hPoF)

42 This is so typical of shitty engineering jobs, which this is looking more and more like.

Posted by: KG at November 28, 2010 07:55 PM (2pDBV)

43 The result of that work is that we now better understand that people who have a deficient BRCA2 gene are hypersensitive to DNA damage, which can be caused by a number of factors including: UV exposure, oxidative stress, improper chromosomal replication and segregation, and radiation exposure.This is an enormous lawsuit waiting to happen. The first woman who gets breast cancer after having gone though one of those scanners is going to sue big time.

Posted by: Interesting Connections at November 28, 2010 07:55 PM (rwFPp)

44

Oh, he asks "What is the decay rate of the filter?"  Maybe the beam is rastered with a screen of some sort.   Bet it's some sort of spinning cylander with slits cut in it overlain with another filter that has a single slit that moves ("scans") up and down.  As the point the two slits intersect a beam emerges.

Posted by: John Pistole at November 28, 2010 07:59 PM (7hPoF)

45 "The result of that work is that we now better understand that people who have a deficient BRCA2 gene are hypersensitive to DNA damage, which can be caused by a number of factors including: UV exposure, oxidative stress, improper chromosomal replication and segregation, and radiation exposure."

Wow, watch the lawsuits happen.

Posted by: Interesting Connections at November 28, 2010 07:59 PM (rwFPp)

46 Whoops, sock.  Bet you guys thought Pistole was really here, asking imporant questions.

Posted by: rdbrewer at November 28, 2010 08:04 PM (7hPoF)

47 Don't make me angry.  You won't like me when I'm angry.


HULK HANDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: EC at November 28, 2010 08:05 PM (f4TZ2)

48 (cleaned up)

Posted by: humphreyrobot at November 28, 2010 08:05 PM (EiH7n)

49 Humph, I went ahead and cleaned that up.  I realize you were probably being sarcastic, but it was hard to tell how it wasn't over the line.  You might just reload.

Posted by: rdbrewer at November 28, 2010 08:25 PM (7hPoF)

50 Sorry. I don't hate Jews and to prove it let me say, any nice Jewish women out there into pat down fantasies? Really though sorry for my earlier language usage.

Posted by: humphreyrobot at November 28, 2010 08:39 PM (EiH7n)

51

No worries.

Posted by: rdbrewer at November 28, 2010 08:43 PM (7hPoF)

52 Dosimeters don't actually indicate on the spot whether there is an abnormally high presence of radiation. They are generally made up of a film that registers different types of radiation (mine were gamma and neutron and probably alpha and beta too, though I never messed with those). They are turned in every six months (by law) and a couple weeks later, your dose is given to you. If you want truly instantaneous radiological readings, get a Geiger-Mueller counter with a scintillation detector.

Posted by: Oilfield Dude at November 28, 2010 08:55 PM (Cx5cx)

53 your dose is given to you.

I know what you meant, but that was really funny; evokative of the STOS episode where computers simulate the battles of an war, and then the appropriate number of people are executed.

Posted by: ParisParamus at November 28, 2010 09:02 PM (gMzAL)

54 Further, as someone with a few years with working with sources, I can confidently say that this is much ado about nothing. I handled everything between 8 Curie cesium sources (gamma)and 20 curie americium sources (neutron) and have never had very high exposure levels. The secret to radiation safety is time, distance, and shielding. While two of those factors are beyond your control WRT TSA scanners, time isn't. Generally, after a year of putting these suckers into oilwells, me and my guys are only exposed to what amounts to a sunburn or two worth of radiation. Now imagine what being exposed for only 1/100th the time once every other moth or so. Irrelevant.

Posted by: Oilfield Dude at November 28, 2010 09:07 PM (Cx5cx)

55 as someone with a few years with working with sources, I can confidently say that this is much ado about nothing.

Posted by: Oilfield Dude




You would be more convincing if you weren't glowing and didn't have the tentacles....

Posted by: Laurie David's Cervix at November 28, 2010 09:34 PM (6bDVD)

56 X-ray sources are basically a vacuum tube that fires an electron beam at a metal plate, not a radioactive source.

Posted by: s☺mej☼e at November 28, 2010 09:43 PM (glsV4)

57 Posted by: Oilfield Dude

But seriously folks....


The size of the exposed population is the big factor. The number of people working with radiation sources like you are, what - in the thousands?  While there are over 800 million airline passengers in the US each year, most of them scanned, most of them twice. Call it 1.5 billion scans each year.  Now how many people are going to be in the machine when it glitches, or they just happen to get a critical hit on the right bit of genome. Tens. hundreds, thousands?

Posted by: Laurie David's Cervix at November 28, 2010 09:44 PM (6bDVD)

58 Posted by: Oilfield Dude

Also, I assume folks like you are properly trained and are using carefully maintained equipment.

Now look at the mechanical failure rate of commercial aircraft, the most thoroughly scrutinized equipment at airports. With all that oversight, engines still blow up, wings still fall off.  Now think of how much less TLC the people who maintain the scanners are going to use. 

Posted by: Laurie David's Cervix at November 28, 2010 09:52 PM (6bDVD)

59 So I guess the only way to get the real info on these machines and the dose of radiation delivered is to get the WikiLeaks guy on it pronto.  Would looove to see the chain of emails on how these machines were approved, what the real stats are on them, etc.  Oh and who's making the big bucks on the contracts.

Posted by: Boots at November 28, 2010 10:06 PM (neKzn)

60 So I guess the only way to get the real info on these machines and the dose of radiation delivered is to get the WikiLeaks guy on it pronto.  Would looove to see the chain of emails on how these machines were approved, what the real stats are on them, etc.

Posted by: Boots



Discovery during the lawsuits should take care of it....

Posted by: Laurie David's Cervix at November 28, 2010 10:12 PM (6bDVD)

61 Posted by: Laurie David's Cervix I understand what your saying, but I still think it's a bit overblown. Even if those detectors went Chernobyl on you, you're only exposed for 30 seconds max. I don't think you'll be turning into Captain Pollution with those weak stats. Plus TSA workers don't need training. They're expendable!

Posted by: Oilfield Dude at November 28, 2010 10:35 PM (Cx5cx)

62 Calm down little people. I am only here to help you.

Now get back in line.

Posted by: Mr. TSA Smiley-Face Guy at November 28, 2010 11:18 PM (u5eVT)

63 This is pretty much what I was saying the other day except that I was maintaining that you are getting a dose to the skin, even if everything is working perfectly.

"Backscatter" is a very misleading term that makes the untrained think the X-rays are "bouncing off the skin". They are not, they interact with ther atoms in the skin and cause an electron to be ejected and a photon to be produced which is then used as the source for the "picture". In nuclear terms this is called Compton's Scattering.

As I said the other day, if a "evil" private business were doing this they would be in jail.

Posted by: Vic at November 28, 2010 11:34 PM (e4sSD)

64 Even if those detectors went Chernobyl on you, you're only exposed for 30 seconds max.

Don't forget that these things are hitting your eyes as well. Those are very radiation sensitive organs.

Posted by: Vic at November 28, 2010 11:35 PM (e4sSD)

65 62 Posted by: Laurie David's Cervix

I understand what your saying, but I still think it's a bit overblown. Even if those detectors went Chernobyl on you, you're only exposed for 30 seconds max. I don't think you'll be turning into Captain Pollution with those weak stats. Plus TSA workers don't need training. They're expendable!

Posted by: Oilfield Dude at November 29, 2010 03:35 AM (Cx5cx)

And what about all the people standing around in line waiting for their turn?  What about all the TSA personnel near the machines.  Its not as if the X-ray is a guarranteed directed beam to the person in the machine.  Actual medical professionals that stand behind the X-ray machines and still put up a lead wall between them and it demonstrates that.  There are going to be a lot of frequent flyers going through these machines on a regular basis.

Since you're in the oil industry yeah you're dealing with potential radiation from whatever is in the oil.  That's usually been analyzed by others to determine the amount.  Its not like you're suddenly going to come on a chunk of enriched uranium.  There is some idea of what your exposure level is going to be.  Can you guarrantee the X-Ray exposure level from these machines?

Posted by: buzzion at November 28, 2010 11:37 PM (oVQFe)

66 Its not like you're suddenly going to come on a chunk of enriched uranium.

Exposure to radiation from Uranium is negligible unless you eat it or breath it, then you will have problems long term. Uranium is an alpha emitter and apha particles are stopped/shielded by even a piece of paper. It is an internal hazard only.

X-Rays are penetrating. Hell, you would be safer if they were exposing you to pure U-235 in the airport.

Posted by: Vic at November 28, 2010 11:55 PM (e4sSD)

67 At the risk of sounding like a tinfoil hat wearer, has anyone considered that this might just be (science czar) John Holdren's (and perrenial crank Paul Ehrlich's) dream of a means mass of sterilization brought to life?

Posted by: TimInVirginia at November 29, 2010 12:51 AM (CfTuh)

68 Ever read about the Therac 25 radiation treatment machine? Computer controlled linear accelerator that had a software bug that killed a few people before it was taken off the market.

I'm an electrical engineer with a bit of experience in high-energy physics. If the machine is capable of producing "soft" X-rays and scanning, it's capable of producing a lot more output if the scan ever fails, and there's no failsafe to shut down the beam. A properly designed and tested machine would be a safe as possible while still doing the job. Medical devices are vetted by the FDA for years - and billions in costs - before getting deployed. Were these machines so tested?

Above all, ANY unnecessary exposure to X-rays or other ionizing radiation is a bad idea. Forcing people into these machines is very irresponsible - but them what's the government for?

Finally, isn't there a little conflict with the Fourth Amendment? Unreasonable search this is, if there ever was one.

Posted by: Chuck Kuecker at November 29, 2010 12:56 AM (LgHPp)

69 LOL, the dose required to produce permanent sterility is also the same dose that causes death (LD 50/30 dose). It takes exposure to between 400 to 500 rem to cause permanent sterility. This is the dose that will kill 50% of the exposed individuals within 30 days, assuming no medical intervention. Supposedly these machines give a dose of .005 millirem for each use. That however according to this article, may be debatable.

Posted by: Vic at November 29, 2010 01:02 AM (e4sSD)

70 Ever read about the Therac 25 radiation treatment machine?

Accidents involving nuclear medicine are a lot more common than people think. We used to get monthly reports from the NRC detailing all the industry accidents for the previous month and usually these reports were all dominated by unintentional dose to a patient caused by miscalculation of prescribed dose.

What I found ironic was that the hospital in question would be "cautioned" or given some kind of a slap on the wrist fine a few thousand dollars for accidents involving exposures of several hundred rem to specific organs.

This is opposed to some "paperwork" violation at a power plant where the utility would be fined a hundred thousand dollars.  

Posted by: Vic at November 29, 2010 01:16 AM (e4sSD)

71 Oh come on. This is getting downright silly. You will get more radiation in the first ten minutes of your flight than you will get in this scan. The radar they use alone will result in radiation.. If you are that worried about radiation you do not need to be flying at all.

Most people do not have a problem with the scanners because they trust technology more than people. They not only prefer a scanner over a pat down they would rather walk through a scanner than get a complete background check and an interview just to get on a plane.


Posted by: Terrye at November 29, 2010 01:56 AM (9iEV2)

72 Posted by: Terrye at November 29, 2010 06:56 AM (9iEV2)

Evidently you didn't read the article.

Posted by: Vic at November 29, 2010 01:59 AM (e4sSD)

73 The global warming scam has taught us that liberals will make up scietific evidence to suit their preferred narrative.

A side-effect of  this is that now,  scientific information on things like these back-scatter machines is mistrusted.  I have no idea if they are safe or not,  because I don't trust the government to tell us the truth,  and the company has a vested interest in saying they are safe in order to get more sales and avoid lawsuits.

This uproar over the machines' safety is a direct result of science being manipulated for political purposes.   As someone who worked in science years ago,  I find this ery upsetting.  Furthermore,  what ELSE is being twisted or downright lied about?  We have no idea.


Posted by: Miss Marple at November 29, 2010 02:11 AM (Fo83G)

74 Oilfield Dude: When I wore dosimetry, I had both a film dosimeter as well as a self-reading dosimeter. As you point out, the film had to be processed, but the SRD would provide an immediate read simply by looking into the device (about the size of half a pen). While time-distance-shielding is a nice shorthand, it's only that. The real equation is much more complicated and the HP people who signed off on your work instruction before you ever saw it dealt with these details for you.

Posted by: Another Bob at November 29, 2010 02:40 AM (UghWd)

75

Long before Wikileaks, given the Obama administration's fabricated government figures and propaganda, why anyone would believe any official statement or report is not logical.

This possibility gives rise to certain questions: What is the failure rate of these machines? What is the failure rate in an operational environment? Who services the machine? What is the decay rate of the filter? What is the decay rate of the shielding material?

Those questions assume that the machines are functioning under ideal circumstances. This past week, I've heard experts express complete misgivings over the scanner machines given that lay employees, not experts, are the ones using them on the public. Point being, a very minor maladjustment results in major damage on the human bodies. And the laymen haven't a clue when the machines are maladjusted.


Posted by: maverick muse at November 29, 2010 02:45 AM (H+LJc)

76 “Based on a back of the envelope calculation with a 50 KVp Bremsstrahlung spectrum and the standard mass absorption coefficients for soft tissue, X-ray backscatter machines will, if widely deployed, almost certainly kill far more people than the terrorists they are supposed to protect us from.”
–TJ Radcliffe

Posted by: RoboMonkey at November 29, 2010 02:46 AM (mdDbk)

77 Not to worry, folks. The first TSA screener diagnosed with any type of cancer will sue the TSA, the airlines, DHS, the scanner manufacturer, and the traveling American public in general. We can count on the MSM to endlessly parade a valiant but misunderstood hero struck down in the prime of life by corporate greed and government mismanagement. In a bit of irony their union will demand safer working conditions; this will result in explosives-sniffing dogs and profiling. The scanners will be reserved for persons of interest and run by trained health professionals. So... let's litigate!

Posted by: xavier at November 29, 2010 02:47 AM (ROLH/)

78 As I said the other day, if a "evil" private business were doing this they would be in jail.

There it is.


Posted by: maverick muse at November 29, 2010 02:52 AM (H+LJc)

79 After solidifying our current circumstances empowering the federal government as corporate puppet throughout his administration, Eisenhower played Pilot washing his hands with a wimp "look out" as he left the White House.

Posted by: maverick muse at November 29, 2010 02:54 AM (H+LJc)

80

I heard a TSA person explaining the safety of this machine to a very, very skeptical older lady. She wasn't making progress, judging by the raised eyebrows and body language.

It would be something if after having had to deliver this spiel to thousands of unwilling passengers, they are the ones who had problems in the future.

It'll be interesting to see.

 

Posted by: Who Knows at November 29, 2010 03:11 AM (QLiYt)

81 Perhaps a few hundred or so public-minded passengers could be provided with Geiger counters to run while they are in line and next to the scanners.

Posted by: Museisluse at November 29, 2010 03:49 AM (DTfXb)

82 I spreading this article around like it is H1N1.

Posted by: torabora at November 29, 2010 03:59 AM (grzsD)

83 The same people who gladly subject their bodies to these devices are the people who unjustly fear irradiated food. I'd like to say that bad food has killed a lot more Americans than terrorists but I would just be pulling that out of my fanny. Maybe I'll do some research on the issue.

Posted by: al at November 29, 2010 04:06 AM (4nxhP)

84 tissue absorbing man-made radiation

He said it!  DHS is behind a man-caused disaster ... which means that DHS has to put themselves on their own "man-caused disaster causing" list.

Let's just deport everyone in DHS (all employees, from the top to the bottom) and call it even.

Posted by: iknowtheleft at November 29, 2010 04:12 AM (G/MYk)

85 I'm so on the case. Contact me if you want to opt out of my class action.

Posted by: John Edwards at November 29, 2010 04:42 AM (grzsD)

86

I'm a radiation oncologist who works with radiation-producing machines (linear accelerators) and radioactive isotopes every day, and I call bullshit on this. 

The strength of the x-rays in the scanners is what we would call "superficial", in other words it is essentially entirely absorbed in your skin and never gets to deeper tissues.  The higher energy x-rays do pass through you and are more problematic because they do have the potential to cause radiation damage to deeper tissues.  While it is true that the "soft x-rays" are absorbed more by the body (because they are weaker in energy), it is total BS to say that they are going to be more damaging than the higher energy x-rays.  The guy says that cosmic rays are

Yes, you will get more radiation exposure in your flight than from the scanners.  In fact, flight crews in Europe are classified as radiation workers.  You will also get more simply by living in high altitude locations like Colorado, which has a background radiation more than twice that of places at sea level, or by living in places with higher amounts of radioactive minerals in the rocks (i.e. the Rocky Mountains). 

Posted by: MM at November 29, 2010 04:54 AM (EtH1K)

87 The equivalence drawn between scan dose and dose during 30 minutes of flight (or whatever minutes you have heard, it varies) was the big tip off that they weren't being straight about risks. It's a false, or at least very misleading, comparison. That and the potential for machine malfunction and the already realized calibration issues mean that no person of sense should assume scans are minimally intrusive and perfectly safe. They simply are not. Persons reflexively defending the administrative or bureaucratic decision made somewhere up the line make extraordinarly stupid remarks about how the scanners are important because of the underwear bomber ( that the scans can't catch - it can't even detect that type of explosive) . They must couch it in terms of some moral imperative that's best for the herd at large - otherwise crass defense of profiteering and ass-covering will be revealed for what it is. Because that is, of course, evil, and wouldn't sell.

Posted by: SarahW at November 29, 2010 04:55 AM (Z4T49)

88 MM, read the comments of that boing boing article. I was singularly unimpressed with the canards being used in defense of the scanners. You have to admit that the safety of the scanners is not a toss-off question. I'm botthered that the dose is being portrayed as if it touches every part of the body equally. It does not - the most radiation is directed at the scalp - the spot on the body most likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. Many 40+ persons have actinic keratoses that could be cajoled into malignancy - I would advise anyone with such a lesion not to enter the scanner.

Posted by: SarahW at November 29, 2010 05:01 AM (Z4T49)

89

Whoops, forgot to finish the one sentence.

The guy says that cosmic rays aren't absorbed by you or are absorbed by the airplane.  While there will be some filtration by the airplane hull, aluminum of the thickness used in airplane hulls will only filter out the weakest cosmic rays, leaver the higher energy to pass through you and yes, get absorbed by your body.  Despite all of this exposure, flight crews do not display any evidence of elevated rates of fertility or malignancies.  In fact, there are parts of the world, like the Kerala coast in India that have background radiation levels of 260mSv (Chest x-ray gives you 0.06mSv)  which is 200x that of normal background radiation.  People living there are, if anything, healthier than the general population. 

Posted by: MM at November 29, 2010 05:07 AM (EtH1K)

90 SarahW, I wouldn't have any problem with someone entering the scanner with an actinic keratosis, or frank basal cell carcinoma. I use radiation to treat BCC's! I don't like the idea of scanners in airports and think that profiling would be a much more effective use of resources. I'm just not going to accept the medical risk angle as a reason not to use these machines.

Posted by: MM at November 29, 2010 05:12 AM (EtH1K)

91 MM your assertion assumes that the machines work exactly as advertised by the government. You missed the entire point of the article that the machines do not always work the way they have been advertised.

With this administration I do not trust a single number they use anywhere. All of them are liars.

And BTW, I hate GD European dose measurements.

Posted by: Vic at November 29, 2010 05:51 AM (e4sSD)

92 Loosely connect, I saw this comment on Facebook the other day...


If I'm flying, personal safety ... even if only perceived ... trumps personal rights every time.

It's mindless dumbfuckery like this that emboldens the government to trample on your rights.

Posted by: Warden at November 29, 2010 06:01 AM (V6HDd)

93

OK hypothetically the scanners contain radioactive material, unless you refuse to be x-rayed then you get a pat down/sexuallly molested. So what happens if a hidden butt bomb is detonated by a homocide bomber inside the scanner? will this explosion become a small dirty radiological bomb? 

Is the TSA actually helping terrorist to set off such a dirty device by providing the material at each airport boarding line?

Posted by: HEP-T at November 29, 2010 06:08 AM (ZPZ3z)

94 A machine that generates an image from backscatter in a very short period of time using ionizing radiation is possibly dangerous?  But when is the FCC and or the EPA going to do something about all that dangerous radiation from cell phones?

Posted by: Jack's complete lack of suprise at November 29, 2010 06:12 AM (F/4zf)

95 It would be something if after having had to deliver this spiel to thousands of unwilling passengers, they are the ones who had problems in the future.

This would cause even more gloating and schadenfreude than the speed-trap cops who got testicular cancer from their radar guns.

Posted by: RoboMonkey at November 29, 2010 06:15 AM (mdDbk)

96 I handled everything between 8 Curie cesium sources (gamma)and 20 curie americium sources (neutron) and have never had very high exposure levels.
If the shutters and safety interlocks fail, the radiation blasts out.
theses online

Posted by: Freddy at November 29, 2010 06:17 AM (qKSBv)

97 Cell phones do not emit "ionizing radiation". They transmit RF which has been around since radio was invented (and actually since the beginning of time since lightning also generates RF). The scare mongers have ginned up this BS about "radiation" because they figured that would scare the most people.

And forget the term "backscatter" radiation. That is another misleading term ginned up by the makers of these devices to make them seem harmless.

Posted by: Vic at November 29, 2010 06:22 AM (e4sSD)

98 Did that comment actually need a sarc tag?

Posted by: Jack's complete lack of suprise at November 29, 2010 06:28 AM (F/4zf)

99 MM, you aren't who you represent yourself to be if you think that treating a cancer with targeted radiation and general exposure of the scalp, including precancerous tissure to xrays is somehow therapeutic. That's shockingly dishonest at the very least.

Posted by: SarahW at November 29, 2010 06:54 AM (Z4T49)

Posted by: rdbrewer at November 29, 2010 07:07 AM (TLdeF)

101 Medical devices are vetted by the FDA for years - and billions in costs - before getting deployed. Were these machines so tested?

Posted by: Chuck Kueker at November 29, 2010 05:56 AM

They aren't even releasing all the information they do have on them.  Go to the link and take a look at the redacted page.

It's redacted, you know, because X-rays are TOP SECRET.

Posted by: rdbrewer at November 29, 2010 07:09 AM (TLdeF)

102

The strength of the x-rays in the scanners is what we would call "superficial", in other words it is essentially entirely absorbed in your skin and never gets to deeper tissues. 

So?  Don't you like your skin?

Posted by: rdbrewer at November 29, 2010 07:15 AM (TLdeF)

103 Finally, isn't there a little conflict with the Fourth Amendment? Unreasonable search this is, if there ever was one. Nah, "social contract theory" to the rescue. Now they just es-plain it to you that you willingly gave up your rights by buying an airline ticket. On the upside, anyone who gets cancer or the like, and has flown since these machines went in, has a lawsuit in waiting against the US Government/Airport/Manufacturer. Nah, "qualified/absolute immunity theory" to the rescue. You think the government is going to let you use a government court to jam up the government? Try it, then come back and tell us how it went.

Posted by: Henry Bowman at November 29, 2010 07:50 AM (+gIcK)

104

MM, you aren't who you represent yourself to be if you think that treating a cancer with targeted radiation and general exposure of the scalp, including precancerous tissure to xrays is somehow therapeutic.

That's shockingly dishonest at the very least.

Yeah, that's right.  What the hell do I know?

http://tinyurl.com/37w5ncy

http://tinyurl.com/39pkvxr

http://tinyurl.com/33mm9h7

 

Posted by: MM at November 29, 2010 08:00 AM (EtH1K)

105 Enough to mislead, is what you know.

Posted by: SarahW at November 29, 2010 08:13 AM (Z4T49)

106 How long until someone works on a stuxnet for these  machines?

The terrible consequences  of a software logic flaw, unintended or malicious, is described in Set Phasers On Stun. There was a logic flaw in a Therac 25 X ray system control program allowing a huge overdose of X-rays. The guy who was lethally irradiated used that phrase jokingly, but it still killed him dead.


Posted by: chuckR at November 29, 2010 08:55 AM (XLu7l)

107

And I misled in what way exactly? 

Radiation is used to treat skin cancer, particularly in cosmetically sensitive areas like the central face, and on the scalp as well if the lesion is large and the surgical excision would leave a large defect.  I wouldn't treat the entire scalp for a skin cancer, just the lesion in question with a 1.5cm margin if it is a basal cell.  I am not arguing the physics of how low-energy x-rays work, I know how they work because I have used them.  I am arguing the biological significance of the dose that these scanners put out as well as trying to correct some erroneous information put out by a guy who not a radiation physicist, nor a radiation biologist (yes, that is a an actual field) and who was trying to put things in the most alarmist manner possible to try to scare people. 

 

Posted by: MM at November 29, 2010 09:03 AM (EtH1K)

108

Frequent flyers and flight personnel will have dosimeters that will be in the red.  Will the defects and sterilty cuased by these machines be covered under Obamacare?

Once again bad law and bad technology will render bad results. 

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