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Radiation from airport body scanners is “tiny”

Friday June 3rd, 2011

Airport body scanners are safe to use, a study has found.

A report by The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) and the British Institute of Radiology (BIR) concluded that radiation doses released are so small they do not warrant any concern.

The report, Airport Security Scanners & Ionising Radiation, reviewed the published literature on the two types of body scanner that are being tested in the UK and abroad.

They found that the backscatter x-ray scanner, which is used in the UK, emits very low levels of ionising radiation. An average dose from a single scan is 100,000 times lower than the average annual dose of radiation a person receives from natural background radiation and medical sources.

The group also examined the millimetre wave scanner, which uses radiowave frequencies rather than ionising radiation and is being trialled at some airports in France.

Both systems are in use in the United States.

Dr Peter Riley, a consultant radiologist and chair of the working group and the BIR’s radiation protection committee, said, “All available data suggests that the radiation doses for air travellers and aircrew from airport scanners are tiny.

“Such doses are only a small fraction of the exposure those same travellers will receive from cosmic radiation as they fly at 30,000 feet.

“In medicine, the small risk to health from diagnostic doses of radiation is offset by the quantifiable benefits of early diagnosis and treatment; in the airport context, the benefit is one of higher travel security.”

Dr Tony Nicholson, dean of the RCR’s Faculty of Clinical Radiology, said while passengers and airport staff should be informed about the radiation levels, they should be reassured by how low they are.

Tags: Traveller Health | UK News | World Health

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