Airport Scanners Pose Little Radiation Risk: Report
Travelers receive higher dose during flight itself, researchers say
Monday, July 8, 2013
People absorb less radiation while undergoing the scan than they do while waiting in line to be scanned, according to the report by an independent task force commissioned by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM).
The investigators took readings from two full-body scanners in active use at Los Angeles International Airport, as well as seven other scanners that were not in active use. The scanners deliver a radiation dose equivalent to what a person typically receives every 1.8 minutes on the ground or every 12 seconds during an airplane flight.
This means that a person would have to receive more than 22,500 scans in a year to reach the standard maximum safe yearly dose of radiation determined by the American National Standards Institute and the Health Physics Society, the report said.
"We think the most important single take-away point for concerned passengers is to keep an appropriate perspective," report co-lead author Christopher Cagnon, chief of radiology physics at the UCLA Medical Center, said in an AAPM news release. "The effective radiation dose received by a passenger during screening is comparable to what that same passenger will receive in 12 seconds during the flight itself or from two minutes of natural radiation exposure."
Radon in the air, cosmic radiation from space and even the decay of potassium in the human body are some natural sources of radiation. Doses of radiation are greater in aircraft because at cruising altitude, there is less atmosphere to protect passengers and crew from cosmic radiation.