Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Consider this my own public service announcement

Yes I have a very strong opinion on airport screening. If you fly once a year it is no bother, however if you fly often you are putting yourself at significant risk. So much so that I endure the invasive pat down every time I fly.

Q: What are the health risks?

A: TSA and Rapiscan say the radiation exposure is equal to what passengers get in a plane for two minutes at 30,000 feet.

Q: What about privacy?

A: TSA says its scanners don't store or save images, and emphasize that the screeners looking at the images never see passengers in-person. But the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington D.C. equates the technology to a "digital strip search," and has filed a suit to block use of the scanners

Q: So what are the alternatives? Do I have to submit to a full-body scan the next time I fly?

A: No. For now, with the metal detectors still in place, it's voluntary. Agents may steer some travelers toward a scanner depending on wait times in various lines, but for the most part, "You'll be able to look around and choose the lane you want to go through," says TSA's Dwayne Baird.

If an agent does insist you join a line with a scanner, you can refuse, but you'll get a physical pat-down. Screeners might also use explosive-tracing devices (cotton swabs) or hand wands to check for suspect items.

However, scientists, including a group of researchers at the University of California in San Francisco, have raised red flags and have questioned the quality of the safety guidelines TSA followed. Those guidelines were established by the American National Standards Institute, an organization whose members include companies that make the machines and the government agencies promoting them.

"While the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high," the scientists wrote in an April 6 letter calling for a review by a panel to include medical physicists and radiation biologists.

"The risk of radiation emission to children and adolescents does not appear to have been fully evaluated," they said, and the "policy toward pregnant women needs to be defined."

(credits to Dad for the cool calendar photos in my inbox this am)


Diane said...

I have always gone thru the scanner. Is there a certain line for pat down? I think about it every time but don't do it. I should travel more.

Kim Thomas said...

As previously noted, I always wait for the pat down because of you. I am beginning to like it