This morning at Orlando International Airport TSA gave me the finger — that come hither finger (no, not that other finger signal!) signaling that I was selected to go through the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) unit (aka the “full-body scanner”). Since these machines have been put into operation, I have gone through them numerous times, with a miniscule fear that the radiation emitted would pose a health risk. To me, this was preferable to the full body pat-down alternative.
Back in March, USA Today reported that the TSA would be re-testing airport body scanners for radiation after they found maintenance records for some of the machines showed radiation levels ten times higher than expected. TSA said these records reflected math mistakes and that the machines passed all inspections. My miniscule fear grew. I’ve since tried to avert these machines by using lanes that have a regular x-ray machine (much less radiation here, right? Please say yes!).
Then today I read this article on Radiation Overdose at the Airport reporting that “A large number of workers have been falling victim to cancer, strokes and heart disease.” This got my fear ball growing.
Just how far does this radiation reach? Could people standing in the nearby x-ray lane, just a few feet away, be affected by this radiation, as well? What is the cumulative impact of going through (and standing near) these machines? Add to that the radiation we’re exposed to by flying on a plane and then what does the impact of radiation look like?
While I await scientific answers to the above, I’ll be more attentive to what security lane I enter. I’ll be looking for a lane where the full body scanner isn’t in operation and thus will get the regular x-ray lane by default. If a regular x-ray machine is abutting a full-body scanner lane, I’ll head to the x-ray lane and keep my conversation to myself.
I think what got me the ‘come hither finger’ today was that I said a friendly Good Morning to the TSA Agent standing at the entrance of the full body scanner. When our eyes met, ‘the finger’ came next!
Here’s a recap of your options to avoid the full body scanner:
- Opt out of the scanner and submit to a full body pat-down;
- Be vigilant in getting into security lanes with the old-style x-ray machines;
- Avoid flying and instead take a car, a bus, a train, a boat, or charter a private plane
And watch out for the ‘come hither finger!’
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