News / Science & Technology

Body Scanners, Touted as Effective Tool Against Terror Attacks, Stir Fears of Radiation

Multimedia

Public opinion polls suggest most Americans favor full body scanners as a way to protect against terror attacks on commercial airliners. The benefits of scanners are being debated in a number of countries. Some groups have raised privacy issues.  But many people believe the machines could also contain health risks. As Vidushi Sinha reports, the scanners release small amounts of radiation, which over time, some scientists say, could increase the risk of cancer.

If the alleged bomber on a Christmas Day flight to the United States had gone through a full body scanner, his explosives might have been detected and an attempted bombing foiled much earlier.

The United States in addition to Britain, the Netherlands, France and Italy have announced plans to install body scanners at airports.

Using x-rays bounced off the body, the machines generate anatomically correct images and can detect items hidden in clothing.

Aside from concerns over privacy, there's a growing discussion about a possible risk of cancer from radiation emitted by the scanners. 

But according to experts, the risk is small.  The radiation from so called backscatter  technology is 2,000 times less than a chest x-ray and 200,000 times less than a CAT scan. 

"Total exposure time is about 8 to 15 seconds, and the radiation dose levels are quite small because the x-rays used here do not penetrate the body," Mahadevappa Mahesh explained. "It is very low dose therefore it's just reflecting back, and the scattered radiation coming from the body is actually captured by a detector and you get the image."

The alleged Christmas day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, flew through Amsterdam and Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital.

Media reports say Nigeria had already received body scanners from the United States, but did not use one on the alleged bomber. 

Some experts say these expensive machines will be difficult for many African and poor countries to purchase and install.

Even if developed countries donate the scanners, there still could be health issues. 

The risk of radiation exposure could be greater in developing countries where maintenance might be spottier, some say. 

"As we do in any of these scanners in hospitals, where we do periodic checks to make sure that radiation levels are as specified and within the acceptable limits, that is important there is always a possiblity that something can go wrong in the scanners and that can emit more radiation and to avoid this it has to be checked periodically," Mahesh said.

Though many experts believe that radiation exposure from full-body scans will not pose a risk of cancer, some urge caution.

"Children in general are more sensitive than adults to radiation.  And the developing embryo and fetus in pregnancy are the most sensitive of all," said Dr. David Brenner of Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

Experts say more study is needed.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs