Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says she wants the controversial body scanners installed on America’s trains, boats and metro systems.
Appearing in PBS’ “Charlie Rose” program, Jan Nap said:
“Terrorists are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through. I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?”
Napolitano’s comments, made a day before one of the nation’s busiest travel days, come in the wake of a public outcry over newly implemented airport screening measures that have been criticized for being too invasive.
The secretary has defended the new screening methods, which include advanced imaging systems and pat-downs, as necessary to stopping terrorists. During the interview with Rose, Napolitano said her agency is now looking into ways to make other popular means of travel safer for passengers and commuters.
Napolitano isn’t the only one who’s suggested that advanced scanning machines could be used in places beyond airports.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, introduced legislation this past September that would authorize testing of body scanners at some Federal buildings.
The controversial body scanner machines use Backscatter X-ray ionizing radiation, a known cumulative health hazard, to produce images of passengers’ bodies. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with defective DNA repair mechanisms are considered to be especially susceptible to the type of DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation. Also at high risk are those who have had, or currently have, skin cancer. Ionizing radiation’s effects are cumulative, meaning that each time you are exposed you are adding to your risk of developing cancer. Since the dosage of radiation from the backscatter X-ray machines is absorbed almost entirely by the skin and tissue directly under the skin, averaging the dose over the whole body gives an inaccurate picture of the actual harm.
In their letter of concern, UCSF faculty members noted that “the dose to the skin could be dangerously high.” The eyes are particularly susceptible to the effects of radiation, and as one study found allowing the eyes to be exposed to radiation can lead to an increased incidence of cataracts.