TSA Security Laboratory Director Susan Hallowell recently announced the agency's intent to use back-scatter X-ray machines for passenger surveillance. These hugely expensive, closet-sized zappers can find the plastic bombs hidden in grandma's underpants, while delivering a smacking dose of ionizing radiation to her breasts and thyroid gland.
Snooper X-rays penetrate a few centimeters into the flesh and reflect off the skin to form a naked body image for TSA security personnel to inspect. These machines are already being field tested at several U.S. airports, including JFK, LAX and Orlando.
Virtually all passengers and airline crews who pass through airport screening checkpoints in the U.S. may soon be forced to submit to compulsory, whole-body X-ray exposure. Some fliers could be "fried" several times in one day. Frequent fliers could get hit hundreds of times each year. Pregnant women, infants, the chronically ill and immune suppressed would get the rays. Grateful herds of traveling livestock, prodded by TSA drovers through federally-funded "nuke chutes," are expected to believe Hollowell's scientifically unsupported assertion that ionizing radiation delivered via backscatter will be "about the same as sunshine."
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.