X-Ray scanners at airports – More big brother and a cancer risk too

There was an article on the BBC news web site today saying that a full body X-Ray machine is being trialledFull Body X-Rays. Photo: APat Manchester Airport. The idea is that security staff can identify hidden weapons without the time consuming searches which currently take place.

Efficiency, efficiency, we will sell our souls for efficiency.

There has been concern that the images produced are too revealing but according to the BBC “the airport has stressed that the images are not pornographic and will be destroyed straight away.” – Great! So we have the assurance of some nameless employee of a large public company. Which is to say we have no assurance at all. Recall that British Airport AUthority is a private company not a branch of government. They have no right to subject the general public to X-rays.

I knew a radiologist a few years ago who told me that each time we have an X-Ray we run two risks. The first is that the X-ray will directly cause a cancer. The risk is low but it is real and we can get cancer from a single visit to the dentist. The other risk is that X-ray impact is cumulative. Each time we have an X-ray we increase the impact to our bodies and run the risk that this will lead to cancer.

An article on the BUPA health care company web site from 2004 says that a study estimated that 0.6% of all cancers diagnosed in the UK are due to medical X-rays and this would account for roughly 700 of the 124,000 new cases of cancer in the UK each year. The BUPA article claims to reference a work published in the 31 January 2004 issue of The Lancet medical journal.

The use of X-rays at airports is a symptom of the “nanny knows best” attitude that is prevalent in The UK. Yes it would speed things up and yes it would detect hidden weapons but it would be one more step in the subjugation of the individual to the state. One more mechanism to increase the power of the state and reduce the power of the individual.

The government will insist that machines like this are “progress” but progress toward what? What vision of The UK are we are progressing toward that includes X-ray machines at airports, government buildings and shopping malls? What vision includes more or less 100% CCTV coverage and gadgets in every car to monitor where we travel? I suggest that the vision of the future which the current New Labour government has in mind more closely resembles a dystopia than a utopia. More Minority Report than Star Trek.

Unlike the movies real life nightmare states such as Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia do not come about over night. They creep up on societies slowly as individuals seed power to a self riotous political apparatus in the name of security. (See the Hermann Goering quote on my Quotation page)

I travel for work fairly frequently and have already been confronted with one of these X-ray machines at Heathrow or Gatwick. I can’t recall which. I refused to enter and the apparatchik in charge told me that the level of radiation was safe but had no reply when I asked what a safe level was. Perhaps too many people refused in London so they thought they’d do the usual trick and inflict it on Scotland or the North first.

My advice is to refuse to enter these machines.

I don’t know what Gatwick Airport’s policy on protecting the information stored on your passport chips is but they examine it in full view of the general public.

Man watches personal information displayed on screen
Man watches personal information displayed on screen
  • Have you been through Manchester Airport?
  • Did you get X-Rayed?
  • Did you ask about safety?
  • What’s your opinion?

Related article:

CT scans equivalent to about 100 chest X-rays
The Ghastliness of British airports
Diabetic teen upset with TSA screeners at Salt Lake City Airport

Star House
Star House


  1. I agree. At best, this is intrusive and unethical, and at worst, illegal. Isn’t it illegal to expose people to radiation without medical justification? How is the government allowed to x-ray us “willy-nilly” at the airports? Have they considered the deleterious effects on women in their first trimester of pregnancy, when DNA damage (caused by radiation) is most likely to result in genetic abnormalities?

    Dr. John W. Gofman, an authority on the health effects of ionizing radiation, estimates that 75% of breast cancer could be prevented by avoiding or minimizing exposure to the ionizing radiation. His exhaustive research led him to conclude that there is NO SAFE DOSE-LEVEL of ionizing radiation, since it is equivalent to dropping “grenades and small bombs” on human cells.

    These full-body x-ray machines should be banned. Radiation damages the DNA in your cells and much more. It accumulates in the body during one’s lifetime and when it reaches a certain level, cancer is nearly certain. No matter what anyone tells you and no matter how they try to “down-play” the danger, just know that there is NO SAFE DOSE of radiation.

  2. My bad. The radiation being used in these “full-body-porno” scanners is terahertz radiation and not typical ionizing radiation.

    But a study conducted by Boian Alexandrov (and colleagues) at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico indicated that terahertz radiation has the potential to literally rip apart or unzip double-stranded DNA. This, in turn, creates bubbles that could interfere with critical processes (like DNA replication and gene expression).

    I don’t really don’t mind being exposed nude for the TSA-Pervs, but having my DNA unraveled…that’s another issue altogether!! 🙂

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