TSA Workers Fear Radiation Dangers From Scanners

10:02 PM, Jun 27, 2011   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) --- After wading through documents he secured with a Freedom Of Information Act filing, the Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Marc Rotenberg told 9NEWS NOW, "We think that the Department of Homeland Security has not been forthcoming with the public about the true extent of radiation risk with the airport body scanners."

The release of new documents follows concerns of TSA workers that they are being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation as they conduct the screenings. Union representatives in Boston cite an increase in cancer cases among the TSA workforce there and have asked the agency to allow its members to wear radiation monitoring devices.

"The Department, rather than acting on it, or explaining its position seems to have just dismissed. I don't think that's the way most other agencies would have acted in a similar situation if they were confronted with that question," Rotenberg said.

Asked to respond to the safety concerns, TSA issued the following statement:

"TSA has implemented stringent safety protocols to ensure that technology used at airports to screen people and property is safe for all passengers, as well as the TSA workforce. In addition to regular maintenance, each individual machine that uses X-ray technology is regularly tested to ensure the radiation emitted falls within the national safety standards."

Some scientists do not trust the agency's science. In a letter to President Obama's Science Advisor, several University of California professors conclude: "There is still no rigorous, hard, data for the safety of x-ray airport passenger scanners."

The letter maintains the agency relied on tests performed by the machines' manufacturers and says, "Important information has not been provided to the public." They suggest a moratorium on the use of the devices until conclusive science can answer the radiation questions.

Again, the agency says it has science to support its conclusions the machines are safe.

"It's one branch of government that's made the decision to deploy these devices and it's the same branch of government which is evaluating its own program. That's a recipe for a problem," Rotenberg said.

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