Saturday, January 2, 2010

Michael Chertoff: Who Are You Going to Believe, Me or Your Cancer?

FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF ARGUES FOR WHOLE-BODY IMAGING
Opposition to whole-body imagers essentially relies on three arguments. First, the American Civil Liberties Union and privacy advocates have complained that the machines subject passengers to a “virtual strip search.” Second, they claim that the machines are unsafe because they expose passengers to dangerous amounts of radiation in screening. Third, some critics argue that the only correct approach to airline security lies in better intelligence.

All of these objections lack merit. The “safety” concern is particularly specious, because the technologies expose people to no more radiation than is experienced in daily life.


FULL-BODY SCANNERS TO FRY TRAVELERS WITH RADIATION
Officials must naturally defend compulsory passenger X-rays as harmless. But they are signing no guarantees because ionizing radiation in the X-ray spectrum damages and mutates both chromosomal DNA and structural proteins in human cells. If this damage is not repaired, it can lead to cancer. New research shows that even very low doses of X-ray can delay or prevent cellular repair of damaged DNA, raising questions about the safety of routine medical X-rays. Unborn babies can become grotesquely disfigured if their mothers are irradiated during pregnancy. Heavily X- rayed persons of childbearing age can sustain chromosomal damage, endangering offspring. Radiation damage is cumulative and each successive dose builds upon the cellular mutation caused by the last. It can take years for radiation damage to manifest pathology.

(Hat tip to David Kramer over at LRC's blog)