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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid