|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
"They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays," said Dr. Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine, according to a Agence France Presse story.
Love's comments, reported Sunday on the AlterNet website, came amid calls for a national revolt on airport body scanners, with plans firming up for a "National Opt-Out Day" set for Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving, in which airline passengers are urged to refuse a body scan and opt instead for a pat down in airport security lines on the busiest travel day of the year.
Travel experts are predicting chaos in the terminals. But I'm hoping the added attention sheds more light on the cancer question, because Love is far from alone in venting his health concerns.
Dr. David Brenner, head of the center for radiological research at Columbia University in New York, told the London Telegraph in a June 29 story that considering the large number of people who frequent the nation's airports, wide-ranging exposure, even to minimal amounts of radiation, could add up to one big concern.
"If all 800 million people who use airports every year were screened with X-rays, then the very small individual risk multiplied by the large number of screened people might imply a potential public health or societal risk," he said. "The population risk has the potential to be significant."
Scientists with the University of California at San Francisco were so worried that they wrote a letter to the White House Office of Science and Technology in April raising "a number of red flags" on the scanners' safety.
"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 letter said in part, adding concerns that "independent safety data do not exist" and raising the potential for further harm if a high dosage was accidentally emitted.
"Any glitch in power at any point in the hardware (or more importantly in the software) that stops the device can cause an intense radiation dose to a single spot on the skin. Who will oversee problems with overall dose after repair or software problems?"
The Office of Science and Technology last month responded to the concerns with a nine-page letter assuring the UCSF scientists that the doses met safety standards and had been adequately tested.
"The potential health risks from a full-body screening with a general-use X-ray security system are miniscule," the government agency wrote. "Several groups of recognized experts have been assembled and have analyzed the radiation safety issues associated with this technology."
But one co-author of the UCSF letter, biochemist John Sedat, told AFP in Sunday's AlterNet story, that the government's explanation was "deeply flawed" and insufficient to ease scientists' concerns.