Considerable public concern has been expressed around the world about the radiation risks posed by the backscatter (ionizing radiation) and millimeter-wave (nonionizing radiation) whole-body scanners that have been deployed at many airports. The backscatter and millimeter-wave scanners currently deployed in the U.S. almost certainly pose negligible radiation risks if used as intended, but their safety is difficult-to-impossible to prove using publicly accessible data. The scanners are widely disliked and often feared, which is a problem made worse by what appears to be a veil of secrecy that covers their specifications and dosimetry. Therefore, for these and future similar technologies to gain wide acceptance, more openness is needed, as is independent review and regulation. Publicly accessible, and preferably peer-reviewed evidence is needed that the deployed units (not just the prototypes) meet widely-accepted safety standards. It is also critical that risk-perception issues be handled more competently.
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Vol. 177 • No. 6