Sunday, November 28, 2010

Not to Beat a Dead Horse . . .

. . . but there are a whole slew of questions arising from the use of TSA's pornoscanners at airports. And let's just leave out the part of the slew that has to do with civil liberties, invasion of privacy, etc. Let's just concentrate on questions concerning the safety of these machines. Serious scientific questions are being raised about the effects of the radiation produced by these scanners on the human beings. A young scientist at the University of California Davis has put out a layman's friendly explanation of the concerns being raised by him and his colleagues. The bottom line for these investigators is that the machines are not safe for use.

Here are the questions these scientists are asking about the scanners:
  • What happens if the machine fails, or gets stuck, during a raster? 
  • How much radiation would a person's eye, hand, testicle, stomach, etc be exposed to during such a failure? 
  • 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? 
  • What is the variability in the power of the X-ray source during the manufacturing process?
Needless to say, answers to the questions have not been satisfactorily answered by TSA. Responses appear to be quickly cobbled together reports by "mid-level lab technicians" with no scientific publications or academic or medical pedigrees. Safety concerns are even more serious for women, children, and infants subjected to radiation doses far exceeding advisable limits. 

So . . . what do you think the odds are that these scientists are going to be heeded?
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