A special AOL investigation into the safety of TSA's advanced imaging technology found no evidence to support the group's claim that the X-ray scanners are safe. In fact, AOL's senior public health correspondent, Andrew Schneider, discovered that the scanners can be dangerous if they're not carefully and frequently inspected -- which, apparently, they aren't.
Schneider's investigation reveals that TSA is disturbingly secretive about the safety of its AIT scanners. And while the organization claims that a variety of groups are responsible for ensuring the safety of the scanners -- including the FDA, the Health Physics Society and the U.S. Army Public Health Command -- AOL news found that each say "they have no responsibility for the continuing safety" of the machines.
Worst still, TSA will not make public exposure data available to anyone outside of TSA who wishes to independently evaluate the risks.
John Sedat, a professor emeritus in the department of biochemistry at the University of California at San Francisco, and three of his colleagues -- a physician and two other scientists -- attempted to verify TSA claims that the full-body scanners were safe. ...
"We found that essentially none of this information was known or made public, and more interestingly, it looked like this technology had not been independently vetted by the scientific community, published, peer-reviewed or even discussed openly," Sedat told AOL News.
"Essentially, all the information was coming from companies that were making the devices, and it looked like it was being parroted by the FDA and the TSA, which didn't seem reasonable," he said.
Schneider also spoke to radiologist experts to learn more about the specific risks from exposure to X-rays. Perhaps not surprisingly, AIT scanners must be accurately calibrated and carefully monitored to ensure they perform as promised.
A spike in the intensity of the scanning beam, or a slowdown or pause in the timing of that beam's sweep across a traveler's body, could cause significant radiation damage, AOL News was told by a radiologist and two radiological health physicists, who are trained and certified to ensure the safety of those exposed to or working with radioactive material.
Not to worry, TSA says. "Preventative maintenance checks, including radiation safety surveys, are performed at least once every 12 months."
Hopefully, the AOL investigation will help prompt TSA to seek an external review of its AIT scanners. Or, perhaps the White House will request a long-overdue assessment of the entire agency.
Read the entire AOL report here.