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Healthwise: Radiation from Security Scanners

January 5, 2011

Doctor Jon Ciambotti, a radiologist at Martha Jefferson Hospital, says there are two types of body scanners used in airports across the country. One uses radio frequency pulses and another uses radiation.

"The radiation comes and bounces off your skin. It is measured and produces a 3-D picture of you," explained Dr. Ciambotti.

The Transpiration Security Administration, TSA, said that only a small amount of radiation is released when someone is inside of the scanner.

"According to the TSA, it's a very low amount of radiation, barely measurable," said Ciambotti. "It's much less from a dental scan, it's much less from a chest x-ray, and its much less from a mammogram," he added.

There are no studies or actual data to examine yet, but Ciambotti says the average flyer should not be too concerned with long term effects of radiation from body scanners.

"It's unknown if these very low levels of radiation whether there is any harm or not.," said Ciambotti.

Frequent flyers are still getting more than a small does of radiation. For passengers that are worried they are exposed to too much radiation, Ciambotti suggests other options such as pat downs or non-radiation body scanners.

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