When the government needs to be held accountable for its activities, can we simply take it at its word, or let one bureaucracy vouch for the other? That’s what’s happening amid questions about the health risks of using backscatter X-ray machines at airports. ProPublica reports:
Earlier this month, a ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation found that the TSA had glossed over research that the X-ray scanners could lead to a small number of cancer cases. The scanners emit low levels of ionizing radiation, which has been shown to damage DNA. In addition, several safety reviewers who initially advised the government on the scanners said they had concerns about the machines being used, as they are today, on millions of airline passengers.
At a Senate hearing after the story ran, TSA Administrator John Pistole agreed to a request by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to conduct a new independent study of the health effects of the X-ray scanners, also known as backscatters.
But at a Senate hearing of a different committee last week, Pistole said he had since received a draft report on the machines by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, or IG, that might render the independent study unnecessary.
“My strong belief is those types of machines are still completely safe,” Pistole said. “If the determination is that this IG study is not sufficient, then I will look at still yet another additional study.”
Even as the TSA evades independent scrutiny in the U.S., the European Union adopted new airport screening policies that ban the use of Backscatter machines. What for? Safety and health concerns!
In order not to risk jeopardising citizens’ health and safety, only security scanners which do not use X-ray technology are added to the list of authorised methods for passenger screening at EU airports.