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APA president advises pilots against using new body scanners

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APA president advises pilots against using new body scanners

Old 9th Nov 2010, 14:00
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APA president advises pilots against using new body scanners

Allied Pilots Association president Dave Bates is suggesting that American Airlines pilots go through a pat-down search by Transportation Security Administration personnel rather undergo the repeated radiation from the "advanced imaging technology" body scanners used at many airports.
APA president advises against new body scanners
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 15:43
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Morton's Fork.
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 15:54
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Morton's fork.
Actually, the choice is obvious. Any humiliation is better than ionizing radiation. You don't die of cancer because of humiliation.
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 16:01
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body scanners

AP0008

I assume you have loads of evidence for that statement!!

So now all the terrorist needs to do is to get an AA unifrom.........easy
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 16:30
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@golfbananajam

How about

http://www.npr.org/assets/news/2010/05/17/concern.pdf

Grtz
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 17:20
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What makes you think the radiation is ionizing?

The full body scanners use RF energy in the Terahertz range, which is longer wavelength than the far-infrared end of the light spectrum, between 0.1 and 1mm approximately.

Ionization starts at a little above 3eV photon energy, which is the energy of ultraviolet light in the UVA band. The wavelength of UV light is from about 400nm downwards.

So in fact Terahertz radiation is a factor of about 250 times too low in photon energy to break chemical bonds and ionize anything.

Any limits on exposure to these frequencies are based on thermal effects rather than any other danger factor.

As for X-ray backscatter scanners, the dosage is claimed to be about 1/200,000th of the dosage given during a CT scan in hospital, so much lower risk that requiring a CT scan.

But if you want to complain, make it about the efficacy of the scanner when used to scan someone who has ingested or inserted explosives into a body cavity.

Last edited by Feathers McGraw; 9th Nov 2010 at 17:32.
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 17:24
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I don't understand the need for these body scanners for either pax or pilots, except for the sake of the politicians who have their fingers in the pies of the companies that manufacture them.

With the new trend in female suicide bombers, all it takes is a tampon or sanitary towel made out of explosive and the they'll be able to blow themselves inside out whilst in mid flight.
Who's going to search the panties of a female terrorist dressed as an AA pilot who looks like she's flying the flag of Japan?
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 17:34
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At least an internal explosion will be dissipated by the body tissue around it, thus reducing the damage caused. A member of the Saudi royal family was uninjured within a few feet of such an explosion.
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 20:33
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Feathers McGraw

Suggest you study up on the theory of explosives.

an internal explosion will be dissipated by the body tissue around it
is not a correct statement.


DIVOSH!
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 20:49
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Safety concerns over back scatter X-Ray security checks

The NPR document mentioned above is a letter to President Obama's science advisor form a group of phyisicans and scientific researchers, including a Nobel laureate.

The file is unaccessible due to the number of people accessing it (it is being heavily ReTweeted at present).

Google has a cache here : Powered by Google Docs but, as many will not like the shortened link the text is below.

To me this looks like a very measured and reasonable set of questions.

Memetic



LETTER OF CONCERN

We are writing to call your attention to serious concerns about the potential health risks
of the recently adopted whole body backscatter X-ray airport security scanners. This is
an urgent situation as these X-ray scanners are rapidly being implemented as a primary
screening step for all air travel passengers.

Our overriding concern is the extent to which the safety of this scanning device has
been adequately demonstrated. This can only be determined by a meeting of an
impartial panel of experts that would include medical physicists and radiation biologists
at which all of the available relevant data is reviewed.

An important consideration is that a large fraction of the population will be subject to
the new X-ray scanners and be at potential risk, as discussed below. This raises a
number of ‘red flags’. Can we have an urgent second independent evaluation?

The Red Flags

The physics of these X-rays is very telling: the X-rays are Compton-Scattering off outer
molecule bonding electrons and thus inelastic (likely breaking bonds).

Unlike other scanners, these new devices operate at relatively low beam energies
(28keV). The majority of their energy is delivered to the skin and the underlying
tissue. Thus, 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 X-ray dose from these devices has often been compared in the media to the cosmic
ray exposure inherent to airplane travel or that of a chest X-ray. However, this
comparison is very misleading: both the air travel cosmic ray exposure and chest X-
rays have much higher X-ray energies and the health consequences are appropriately
understood in terms of the whole body volume dose. In contrast, these new airport
scanners are largely depositing their energy into the skin and immediately adjacent
tissue, and since this is such a small fraction of body weight/vol, possibly by one to two
orders of magnitude, the real dose to the skin is now high.

In addition, it appears that real independent safety data do not exist. A search,
ultimately finding top FDA radiation physics staff, suggests that the relevant radiation
quantity, the Flux [photons per unit area and time (because this is a scanning device)]
has not been characterized. Instead an indirect test (Air Kerma) was made that
emphasized the whole body exposure value, and thus it appears that the danger is low
when compared to cosmic rays during airplane travel and a chest X-ray dose.

In summary, if the key data (flux-integrated photons per unit values) were available, it
would be straightforward to accurately model the dose being deposited in the skin and

Letter of Concern – Page 2

adjacent tissues using available computer codes, which would resolve the potential
concerns over radiation damage.

Our colleagues at UCSF, dermatologists and cancer experts, raise specific important
concerns:



A) The large population of older travelers, >65 years of age, is particularly at
risk from the mutagenic effects of the X-rays based on the known biology of
melanocyte aging.



B) A fraction of the female population is especially sensitive to mutagenesis-
provoking radiation leading to breast cancer. Notably, because these women,
who have defects in DNA repair mechanisms, are particularly prone to cancer,
X-ray mammograms are not performed on them. The dose to breast tissue
beneath the skin represents a similar risk.



C) Blood (white blood cells) perfusing the skin is also at risk.



D) The population of immunocompromised individuals--HIV and cancer
patients (see above) is likely to be at risk for cancer induction by the high skin
dose.



E) The risk of radiation emission to children and adolescents does not appear to
have been fully evaluated.



F) The policy towards pregnant women needs to be defined once the theoretical
risks to the fetus are determined.



G) Because of the proximity of the testicles to skin, this tissue is at risk for
sperm mutagenesis.



H) Have the effects of the radiation on the cornea and thymus been determined?

Moreover, there are a number of ‘red flags’ related to the hardware itself. Because this
device can scan a human in a few seconds, the X-ray beam is very intense. Any glitch
in power at any point in the hardware (or more importantly in software) that stops the
device could 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 TSA is
already complaining about resolution limitations; who will keep the manufacturers
and/or TSA from just raising the dose, an easy way to improve signal-to-noise and get
higher resolution? Lastly, given the recent incident (on December 25th), how do we
know whether the manufacturer or TSA, seeking higher resolution, will scan the groin
area more slowly leading to a much higher total dose?

After review of the available data we have already obtained, we suggest that additional
critical information be obtained, with the goal to minimize the potential health risks of

Letter of Concern – Page 3

total body scanning. One can study the relevant X-ray dose effects with modern
molecular tools. Once a small team of appropriate experts is assembled, an
experimental plan can be designed and implemented with the objective of obtaining
information relevant to our concerns expressed above, with attention paid to completing
the information gathering and formulating recommendations in a timely fashion.

We would like to put our current concerns into perspective. As longstanding UCSF
scientists and physicians, we have witnessed critical errors in decisions that have
seriously affected the health of thousands of people in the United States. These
unfortunate errors were made because of the failure to recognize potential adverse
outcomes of decisions made at the federal level. Crises create a sense of urgency that
frequently leads to hasty decisions where unintended consequences are not recognized.
Examples include the failure of the CDC to recognize the risk of blood transfusions in
the early stages of the AIDS epidemic, approval of drugs and devices by the FDA
without sufficient review, and improper standards set by the EPA, to name a few.
Similarly, there has not been sufficient review of the intermediate and long-term effects
of radiation exposure associated with airport scanners. There is good reason to believe
that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable
populations. We are unanimous in believing that the potential health consequences
need to be rigorously studied before these scanners are adopted. Modifications that
reduce radiation exposure need to be explored as soon as possible.

In summary we urge you to empower an impartial panel of experts to reevaluate the
potential health issues we have raised before there are irrevocable long-term
consequences to the health of our country. These negative effects may on balance far
outweigh the potential benefit of increased detection of terrorists.
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 21:55
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THz vs X-ray scanners

It's tough to be clear about the risks of these devices, since there is very little public information on their nature.

Both THz and X-ray scanners have been proposed to look for hidden weapons and explosives, with X-ray machines detecting the enhanced scattering of X-rays compared with flesh, and THz machines detecting the different temperature profiles of a hidden object and flesh.

The machines being used in the US do seem to be based on X-ray scattering. I was initially astonished by this, since unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation is not usually promoted. Whether the employment of the former homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff by an X-ray machine manufacturer has any relevance to this decision is an interesting question.

From looking at quoted numbers previously, and a rescan of wikipedia , I think that the `Letter of Concern' (unsurprisingly) contains very valid points. The claimed dose from a scan is comparable to the background radiation dose at sea level in an hour, and much less than the enhanced cosmic-ray dose from a 1-hr flight at 30000ft; however, the energy spectrum and directionality of these sources is different, and so any health effects may be too.

Having a scan before each 5-hour flight should not significantly increase a pilot's total radiation exposure, but why not opt for the non-ionizing patdown instead?

The letter raises the particularly valid concern that it's easier to see how the machines would overdose than underdose. If they were under-powered, the images would probably not be useful and the manufacturer would be called straightaway (I assume that the absolute minimum dose required to obtain a useful image is used). However, the operators would not know to call the manufacturer if the thing was going wild, unless the detectors were saturating. I would hope there are self-diagnostic checks built in, and the absolute dose is frequently measured.
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 22:11
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I personally don't want to die because of state sponsored death rays.

I'll leave the responsibility for that to my own misdemeanours.

I may just have to delay flights while I decline when to go through Manchester's scientific death camp experiment. (Why is it always Manchester? Do they still have a convicted ex policeman in charge of security?)
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 22:59
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Any well funded terrorist organisation would know exactly how to get around these ridiculous machines.

I'm not saying anything, but anyone with a scientific background can work it out.
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Old 10th Nov 2010, 12:42
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Di Vosh

People are limited in how much explosive they could cram inside themselves, both in terms of volume and of toxicity.

Recently (within the last year) an Al Qaeda suspect in the Middle East managed to get quite close to a Saudi minister (and royal) before detonating a bomb concealed in his large intestine. Naturally it killed him, but the blast effects were sufficiently low that none of the people close to him were seriously injured or killed.

That was what informed my comments, I don't see how these scanners can detect explosives internally, and so clearly if suicide bombers decide to take this route then by detonating a bomb inside them it will have much less effect than if it is removed from the body before detonation.
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Old 10th Nov 2010, 16:09
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Originally Posted by Feathers McGraw
At least an internal explosion will be dissipated by the body tissue around it, thus reducing the damage caused. A member of the Saudi royal family was uninjured within a few feet of such an explosion.
In this case it need only be held internally whilst passing through security, transferred to cabin baggage after that, and then placed at a suitable point in the a/c - even as pax, this would give more control than sending it cargo.

By my reckoning (based on published data) the explosive in the recent printer cartridge bombs would fit in a standard drinks can. If you go looking, it will not be difficult to find plenty of video evidence for the feasibility of bodily insertion and removal of objects this size...
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Old 10th Nov 2010, 20:31
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Once when I was ill, I shat a whole peanut. That hurt like hell.

It would take some doing, to discharge a coke can...
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Old 10th Nov 2010, 21:24
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People are limited in how much explosive they could cram inside themselves, both in terms of volume and of toxicity.
I agree! Well about the volume bit (not sure what you mean about toxicity, presumably the device would be inside a condom or similar)

But that statement is a long way from

an internal explosion will be dissipated by the body tissue around it
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Old 11th Nov 2010, 02:28
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It's rumored that the machines don't actually do anything but pass a visual image to the remote operator. He and the TSA person who stays with you while the "image" is being "developed" use that time to assess you and your demeanor, and decide whether or not to refer you for further examination.

(Just kidding, in case anyone takes the above seriously.)
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Old 11th Nov 2010, 03:18
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It's rumored that the machines don't actually do anything but pass a visual image to the remote operator. He and the TSA person who stays with you while the "image" is being "developed" use that time to assess you and your demeanor, and decide whether or not to refer you for further examination.
If only that were actually true. Real security requires looking at people, not at things.
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Old 11th Nov 2010, 05:25
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A few sobering facts about explosives;

PanAm flight 103 was brought down by 250g or half a pound of Semtex.

HMX, the explosive of choice in the 21st Century is very much more powerful than Semtex.(the exact factor is in question but it is at least twice as powerful)

Octanitrocubane is a recently developed product which is again, many times more powerful than HMX. (thankfully it is very difficult to make)

From this it can be seen that even 100g of such an explosive, which would be more than enough to blow a large hole in a fuselage, can very easily be concealed in a bodily cavity. The example of a tampon sized sample of the explosive would weigh about 80-120g.

The human body would do almost nothing to dissipate or lessen the effect of either of the two latter explosives. The surrounding tissue, meaning most of the body, would vapourise under the intense pressure developed in the milliseconds following the blast.

The example of the Saudi assasination attempt is not valid as the explosive was certainly neither of those mentioned above.

Whether you agree with the use of the scanners as a crew member or not, you will find no assurance that the current scanning/pat-down system is able to detect a device as described. If a terrorist opts for the pat-down then it is almost impossible to see how such a device would be detected.

There should be no option for passengers, they should all be made to go through the body scanner. If that policy were to be implemented then it is hard to see how aircrew could justify a simple pat-down check. It has to be all or nothing.
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