Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw’s®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 15 No.
5 • September 2012
Transportation Security Administration
About Risks to Passengers
from X-Ray Machines
Just a little health tip, here. If possible, avoid exposure to passenger scanning X-ray machines at airports. The cancer risks are understated by a factor of about 1,000 to 10,000 times. Here’s why:
There are three different very serious underestimations in the Federalie risk calculations for the airport X-ray back scatter passenger scanners: 1) All the ionizing radiation is absorbed by your skin so about 1% of your bodies tissue receives 100% of the dose. 2) The risk of development of cancer from a given dose of radiation depends, for a given species, on the rate of cell division, with more rapid cell division resulting in a higher cancer risk. Your skin cells are among the most rapidly dividing cells in your body. 3) Dose rate makes a huge difference! Your cells have mechanisms for detecting DNA breaks and repairing most of them, but this takes time. It also usually takes roughly 5 critical mutations in a single human cell to cause cancer. If the dose is slowly accumulated over a year, the 5,000 millirem that nuclear power plant workers are allowed to receive each year does not cause an increase in cancer, even over a 40 year career—a total of 200,000 millirem. On the other hand, a CAT scan to a child’s head delivers about 3,500 millirem over about 30 seconds—and increases their risk for brain cancer by about 30% from a single exposure. 30 seconds is not long enough to detect DNA damage and repair it. This dose rate effect can also be seen in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors; cancer rate is substantially increased in those who were within 1 Km of ground zero because they received the radiation as a short intense pulse. Those who were a mile away, even if subsequently exposed to months of fallout, had relatively little increase in cancer. The airport X-ray back scatter scanners that Chertoff has been promoting deliver a dose of less than 1 millirem but do so in less than 1 millisecond, which is about 10 times the radiation delivery rate of a CAT scan. Those who rarely fly are unlikely to develop cancer from the few exposures that they receive, but frequent business fliers are may not be so lucky as they may be exposed to a hundred or more doses per year. Considering the large number of frequent fliers, those X-ray machines may end up killing more airline passengers than the terrorists did on 9/11. One of us (Durk) read an announcement yesterday that terrahertz (millimeter wavelength microwaves which cause no mutations) made by L3 company in Massachusetts will be slowly replacing the back scatter X-ray scanners—even though L3 doesn’t have Chertoff pimping them. Perhaps someone else came to the same dire conclusions. Because of this and other reasons (being groped and muzzled—don’t you dare exercise your First Amendment rights by complaining about treatment by TSA agents—are a couple of others), we avoid commercial air flights these days. We drive or, if speed is of the essence, fly by private plane with a hired private pilot. This isn’t always possible (the expense, for one thing) but we thought you might like to know that you are being lied to about the supposedly very low cancer risk of TSA’s X-ray machines. This risk could be particularly important for people who already have skin damage due to high levels of sun exposure and have developed cancer-prone nevi, which already have some unrepaired mutations.
It would be better to avoid the excessive X-ray exposure in the first place but, if you have to go through an X-ray machine at an airport, it might be a good idea to take supplemental radioprotectants beforehand. Radioprotective agents include antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Hydrogen is a particularly interesting radioprotectant as hydrogen selectively scavenges hydroxyl radicals, considered to be the major cause of radiation injury. One way to increase your body’s hydrogen supply is to take prebiotics such as long chain fructooligosaccharides (a form of inulin) that are fermented by certain bacteria in the gut, resulting in the release of hydrogen. Most of the hydrogen diffuses into all tissues, even entering mitochondria and passing through the blood-brain barrier, eventually being excreted through the lungs. (see
“Hydrogen Therapy” in the June issue).
Incidentally, another type of scanner, shown at right, uses millimeter radio waves (shorter wavelength than those that cook food in your microwave oven) and could do the job the X-ray machines are now being used for. With this type of scanner, the photons are not energetic enough to cause mutations and, hence, there really is no risk of cancer. So why aren’t these being used instead of X-ray machines? It all boils down to this: (1) political connections and lobbying by the folks selling the X-ray machines and (2) [think of somebody rubbing their fingers together] certain corrupt “officials” at the Transportation Security Administration who choose scanners on the basis of personal gain while either ignoring injury to travellers or (just as bad) don’t know anything about how radiation causes cancer.
- Zabbarova and Kanai. Targeted delivery of radioprotective agents to mitochondria. Mol Interv 8(6):294-302