According to Dr. Philip Rothbart, a Wilmington, DE physician and attorney, pregnant women and small children should avoid the new backscatter airport scanners. The backscatter airport scanners emit ionizing radiation or X-rays.
ʺIn no case are the backscanners safe for pregnant women or small children who are highly sensitive to ionizing radiation, said Rothbart. ʺOn its face, it appears safe due to the small doses. But any dose of radiation increases your chances for cancer and leukemias.ʺ
Rothbart recommends that all pregnant women and children under 12 undergo the extensive TSA pat-down procedure.
Also, Rothbart expressed concern regarding a possible scanner malfunction which could increase radiation exposure. ʺWe are under the assumption the machine is properly maintained, properly calibrated and the operator is properly trained.ʺ
The scanners are not subject to United States Food and Drug Administration inspection because they are not a medical device.
Other researchers expressed a similar concern. In a 2010 journal article, Arizona State University physicists Peter Rez, Ph.D., and Kenneth Mossman, Ph.D., wrote that “serious consideration should be given to the possibility of unintended and unnecessary doses to passengers due to malfunctioning equipment.”
In a recent survey by airfarewatchdog.com, 36 percent of those surveyed said they don't want to be scanned because the scanners are "a gross invasion of privacy," and 7 percent of the survey takers said they would prefer to be searched using the TSA's newly enhanced pat-down technique.
The new scanners deliver 0.01 millirem (the unit use to measure radiation). 10,000 millirem is considered the danger threshold. The low-level radiation creates an image of the screened passengers to uncover weapons or contraband hidden beneath clothing. The TSA states that the scanners cannot penetrate the skin or reveal items hidden inside the body.
To put the backscanner radiation in context, here is a comparison to other amount of radiation:
• A chest X-ray has 100 times more radiation more than a backscanner
• A single dental X-ray has 330 times more radiation than a backscanner