Flight Crews And Public Not In Support Of Backscatter Full Body Scanning


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Flight Crews And Public Not In Support Of Backscatter Full Body Scanning

Mike Mitchell

November 17, 2010 - In response to increased threats in commercial aviation, more travelers and flight crews are expected to encounter Backscatter full-body scanners at many major airports this holiday season as a result of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implementation of the use of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) body scanners.  

Allied Pilots Association, which represents 11,000 American Airlines pilots called on its pilots to refuse back-scatter screening and for its pilots to demand private pat-downs from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers in a letter to its members.  

Several radiation safety authorities including the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, The Health Physics Society, and the American College of Radiology, have stated that they are "not aware of any evidence" that full-body scans are unsafe. 

However, other radiation authorities, including the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Energy Agency recommend against using ionizing radiation on certain populations like pregnant women and children, and opponents of the devices say that no long-term studies have been done on the health effects of either backscatter x-ray or millimeter wave scanners


Opponents of backscatter x-ray scanners, including the head of the center for radiological research at Columbia University, say that the radiation emitted by some full-body scanners is as much as 20 times stronger than officially reported and is not safe to use on large numbers of persons because of an increased risk of cancer to children and at-risk populations. 

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have argued that the amount of radiation is higher than claimed by the TSA and body scanner manufacturers because the doses were calculated as if distributed throughout the whole body, but the radiation from backscatter x-ray scanners is focused on just the skin and surrounding tissues. 


"Our pilots are highly motivated partners in the effort to protect our nation's security, with many of us serving as Federal Flight Deck Officers. We are all keenly aware that we may serve as the last line of defense against another terrorist attack on commercial aviation. Rather than being viewed as potential threats, we should be treated commensurate with the authority and responsibility that we are vested with as professional pilots,? said Captain Dave Bates, the president of the Allied Pilots Association. 

?It is important to note that there are "backscatter" AIT devices now being deployed that produce ionizing radiation, which could be harmful to your health. Airline pilots in the United States already receive higher doses of radiation in their on-the-job environment than nearly every other category of worker in the United States, including nuclear power plant employees. As I also stated in my recent letter to the Administrator of the TSA. 

"We are exposed to radiation every day on the job. For example, a typical Atlantic crossing during a solar flare can expose a pilot to radiation equivalent to 100 chest X-rays per hour. Requiring pilots to go through the AIT means additional radiation exposure. I share our pilots' concerns about this additional radiation exposure and plan to recommend that our pilots refrain from going through the AIT. We already experience significantly higher radiation exposure than most other occupations, and there is mounting evidence of higher-than-average cancer rates as a consequence." 

A new survey reveals some confusion and concerns over the safety and privacy and a lack of awareness of alternatives to traditional x-ray systems. While respondents expressed support for overall protection afforded by the new security systems, more than 60 percent said they are concerned about harm to their health and 37 percent said they feel like these systems are an invasion of privacy. 


But the survey also revealed that 80 percent of respondents were not aware that there are full-body scanners that do not expose people to radiation and a similar percentage said that if they knew a non-radiating full-body scanner was available in airports they would be more willing to agree to be scanned. 

The survey commissioned by Millivision, a developer of non-radiating scanners using passive millimeter technology sheds new light on the public's willingness to accept alternatives to traditional scanners which have been the focus of concern and controversy. Millivision full-body scanning systems detect threats with none of the health concerns associated with these other systems. 

Millivision systems also employ privacy controls that address concerns raised by the public over the images generated by traditional scanners. The survey found that 70 percent of respondents would be more willing to submit to scans if privacy-protection features were being used. 

"This survey provides new insights into the controversy around the current generation of full-body scanning systems, showing us that the public would be far more open to scanners that addressed their concerns around radiation exposure and privacy," said Paul Nicholas, CEO of Millivision.  

"While it's clear that consumers understand the important role these systems can play adding another level of security these survey findings are a signal to the security community that non-radiating scanners would remove an obstacle to their adoption, alleviating the public's growing safety and privacy concerns." 

Regarding radiation exposure, 60 percent of respondents are aware that they are being exposed to X-ray radiation when they go through a Backscatter full-body scanner, while fewer than 35 percent were aware that they were being exposed to electromagnetic (microwave) radiation when going through an active millimeter wave full-body scanner.  

The two technologies currently deployed for airport security. After knowing about exposure to radiation with Backscatter X-ray and active millimeter wave full-body scanners, 60 percent of consumers said they would be less likely to agree to a full-body scan and instead receive a pat-down. 

Unlike Backscatter and active millimeter wave systems, Millivision full-body scanning systems do not expose travelers to radiation associated with Backscatter and active millimeter wave systems but can still detect objects that would not be identified by metal detectors.

Oneworld Cockpit Crew Coalition Advocates "Common-Sense Approach for Screening Pilots" Worldwide. As part of its biannual meeting this week in Hong Kong, the Oneworld Cockpit Crew Coalition (OCCC) issued the following statement regarding security screening of pilots at airports around the world.

?The professional pilots who fly for commercial airlines across the globe are highly motivated partners in the effort to ensure the security of our air transport system. Pilots are part of the aviation-security solution and should be accorded treatment commensurate with their status as credentialed, trusted professionals.

?Therefore, it is essential for policymakers to design and implement security screening systems that are suitable for pilots. Technology exists that would streamline screening for pilots, thereby freeing up resources to concentrate on identifying legitimate security threats. The associations that make up the OCCC whose pilots fly for oneworld Alliance carriers are unanimous?we need a more common-sense approach to screening pilots at security checkpoints around the world."



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