The TSA says it is planning to monitor the level of radiation some of its employees may be exposed to as part of an “ongoing hazard assessment.”
The workers in question are those who help screen passengers using X-ray technology which includes about half of the body scan machines used in U.S. airports.
Looking for Raised Radiation Levels
It is not known yet which airports will be involved with the radiation monitoring.
The point of all this, of course, is to find out if any of its officers are being exposed to radiation above minimum acceptable levels, and toward this end they are contacting potential vendors about dosimeters – individual radiation detectors worn on the body. As Scientific American points out, this is the kind of thing a worker in a nuclear plant would wear.
TSA Says its Body Scans are ‘Safe’ – Europe Disagrees
According to its website, the TSA continues to maintain that its X-ray screening technology is safe, and that it 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.”
However, the European Union was sufficiently concerned about even potential health risks from this technology that it banned X-ray body scanners last year. The TSA, for now, has no plans to do so.
Passengers Can Avoid Body Scan Machines
There are two types of body scan machines currently in use in U.S. airports: ones that use millimeter wave technology and the so-called backscatter X-ray technology, and it’s the latter that has raised risk questions.
Passengers have the right to refuse either kind of body scan but the alternative is undergoing an enhanced pat-down, which includes a hands-on approach and can be more time-consuming than a scan.