The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) recently announced that it has obtained documents from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which raise new questions about the safety of the TSA’s full-body scanners.
Among other things, the documents reportedly reveal that “(t)he DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has publicly mischaracterized the findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), stating that NIST ‘affirmed the safety’ of full body scanners. NIST stated that the Institute did not, in fact, test full body scanners for safety, and that the Institute does not do product testing.”
EPIC obtained the documents, which consist of “agency emails, radiation studies, memoranda of agreement concerning radiation testing programs, and results of some radiation tests,” through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in July 2010 against the DHS. EPIC filed the lawsuit after several lawmakers questioned the safety of the scanners.
Epic said the documents also reveal that several studies offered safety warnings for airport screeners, and “TSA employees have identified cancer clusters allegedly linked to radiation exposure while operating body scanners and other screening technology. However, the agency failed to issue employees dosimeters — safety devices that would warn of radiation exposure.”
“Some news reports have raised questions about backscatter x-ray safety. The x-ray dose produced by backscatter systems is extremely low… In 17 minutes of ordinary living, a person receives more radiation from naturally occurring sources than from one scan,” a fact sheet available on the TSA’s website says. “While the radiation risk from backscatter x-ray screening is extremely low, passengers may choose to opt out of the screening.”