Odds of cancer from TSA scanners about the same as terrorist blowing up your plane

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Arizona State University physics professor Peter Rez calculated the amount of radiation exposure a human is likely to receive in one of those newfangled Rapiscan porno-scanners the TSA is so fond of, and determined that exposure to be roughly one-fiftieth to one-hundredth the amount of a standard chest X-ray.

From an MSNBC report:

He calculated the risk of getting cancer from a single scan at about 1 in 30 million, "which puts it somewhat less than being killed by being struck by lightning in any one year," he told me.

While the risk of getting a fatal cancer from the screening is minuscule, it's about equal to the probability that an airplane will get blown up by a terrorist, he added. "So my view is there is not a case to be made for deploying them to prevent such a low probability event."

And in that same MSNBC item,

A group of scientists at the University of California at San Francisco laid out their concerns in a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, highlighting in particular the potential for the X-ray dose concentrated on the skin to pose a health concern for children and other vulnerable populations, such as people with HIV.

"We are unanimous in believing that the potential health consequences need to be rigorously studied before these scanners are adopted. Modifications that reduce radiation exposure need to be explored as soon as possible," the letter said. Among the signers were David Agard, John Sedat (a professor emeritus) and Robert Stroud, all professors of biochemistry and biophysics; and Marc Shuman, professor of medicine.

A copy of that letter follows, below.

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And the FDA's response is here.

Are airport X-ray scanners harmful? [MSNBC Cosmic Log, via BB Submitterator, thanks Shane]

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