TSA to Test Safety of Airport Body Scanners from Radiation

February 17, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. emit (v.) – to produce and release force or energy
Example: X-ray machines emit radiation but only in low amounts.

2. negligible (adj.) – very small that can be considered unimportant
Example:  The economic crisis produced a negligible effect on the company’s sales which continue to rise.

3. anxiety (n.) – fear or worry, or a state of uneasiness caused by possible danger or misfortune
Example Anxiety took over his mother when he did not come home for two days.

4. agency (n.) – a division of government that provides specific service
Example The Food and Drug Administration is an agency under the Department of Health.

5. inevitable (adj.) – impossible to avoid or prevent
Example: Serious illness may be inevitable in the future if pollution continues to increase.

Read the text below.

In response to health concerns of US travelers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has decided to conduct tests to measure the amount of radiation emitted by full-body scanners at airports.

However, the TSA plans to test the effect of exposure only to scanner operators who work with the machine every day.

Supposedly, full-body scanners produce only negligible amounts of radiation. But this information does not reduce passengers’ anxiety over the possible effects of radiation exposure from the machines.

According to the US National Library of Medicine’s website, long-term and repeated exposure to small amounts of radiation can increase a person’s risks of developing cancer. At even higher doses, radiation can lead to gene abnormalities, burns, dizziness, weakness, hair loss and reduced organ function.

Even though exposure to radiation is inevitable, with everyday devices like televisions and computers emitting some, many people do not enjoy the idea of receiving additional radiation through airport security.

Such health risks have led European countries to use less harmful machines and prohibit the use of full-body scanners. The TSA, FDA and other US agencies, on the other hand, still insist that the full-body scanners are safe, unless a government-led study can prove that radiation from the machines is really causing health problems.

So far, the TSA has asked government sellers of full-body scanners to give dosimeters devices that measure radiation exposure—to employees who operate the scanners.

Meanwhile, some people are not satisfied with TSA’s actions, as the machines continue to be used in airports to check travelers, and may also still be causing them harm. However, TSA says passengers who do not want to go through the full-body scanners can choose to be patted down by security.  

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         What do you think are the benefits of using full-body scanners at airports?
·         Would you prefer to go through a full-body scanner or be checked by security guards? Why?

Discussion B

·         If radiation is present almost everywhere, can you think of ways of at least lessening your exposure to it?
·         Do you think the benefits of radiation—as seen in X-rays, scanners, computers—is greater than its dangers?


February 17, 2012