The discordant three part harmony being played out in the media concerning the Transport Security Association (TSA) involves a question of security vs. health vs. civil liberties. If you are a frequent flyer, the ability of the TSA to strike a delicate balance between the three should matter to you as the implications for your health are dire without it. While the TSA fixates on security at all costs as a maximum and proven deterrent to terrorism, they are doing little to address well founded concerns of violated civil liberties and the health implications of using machines emitting ionizing radiation.
In the lead up to the National Opt Out day protest on the 24th of November, the Blogosphere and Twitterverse were alive with horrific reports of enhanced pat downs that were invasive and embarrassing. Enhanced pat downs were the alternative if you opted not to go through the full body back scatter scanners. Stories of travelers being asked to remove colostomy bags, leg braces, prosthetic breasts and limbs were not uncommon. As indecent as these instances may have been, they pale in comparison to the cost of what lurks on the horizon if the intent of the TSA is to nuke every passenger before they board the plane.
The problem is the little white lie we've been fed about radiation. The same lie that got you to dismiss radiation as harmless provided it was kept below a certain amount. The same lie that prevents any real solution to jet lag from being found as no remedy currently factors radiation into the problem of jet lag. It is the same lie that the late Dr John Gofman, a foremost authority on radiation, spent the latter part of his career trying to dispel. Gofman's work led him to the conclusion that there is no safe dose of radiation below which the risk of malignancy is nil.
When you take this insight and place it in the context of life in the 21st century, with technology and gadgets all using or emitting radiation, you can see how increasing exposure to radiation is not in the interest of anyone's health. Dr Gofman and other experts went on to say that doses of radiation are cumulative. Therefore frequent flyers and airline professionals are more at risk than infrequent flyers. It should come as no surprise to you then to hear that two unions of American airliners advised their pilots to opt for enhanced pat downs instead of the full body back scatter scanners.
It is time to talk about the elephant in the room - radiation as a health risk to flyers. Flyers have a right to know the truth so they can weigh up the consequences, make an informed decision, or take action to protect themselves. Maybe when radiation is factored into the problem of jet lag more enlightened solutions can be found, which go beyond the hit and miss use of melatonin. Until then the elephant dung is stinking the house out and it is not pleasant. Airlines won't take the lead in this conversation. Any talk about the impact of radiation on health could open airlines up to group action lawsuits like those seen in the occurrences of DVT's; this is a further reason for them to ignore the conversation altogether.
The final balance struck by the TSA and similar worldwide bodies will have a telling effect on the health of all flyers for a long time to come. Influencing that conversation is the duty of all flyers frequent or otherwise.
Wewontfly.com - National Opt Out Day Protest, 11/24/2010.
Radiation & Human Health, 1981 - Dr John Gofman.