Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Asks TSA, Homeland Security For Data On Safety Of Airport X-Ray Machines

December 9, 2010

            Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is asking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to provide his office with data used to assess the safety -- especially for pregnant women and children -- of new airport X-ray machines and other information related to the devices.

            Blumenthal said the DHS’ website states that the safety of the machines has “been independently evaluated by” three independent entities. In fact, those organizations only assessed whether the machines meet certain radiation standards, not their overall safety, according to media reports.

            “Media reports and other information have led consumer advocates, public officials and travelers to raise questions about whether the safety of backscatter X-ray machines has been fully and adequately evaluated,” Blumenthal said. “I’m asking TSA and DHS to provide data and studies used to assess the overall safety of these devices -- especially for children and pregnant women. The public expects and deserves a full scientific evaluation to assure that these machines pose no threat to human health.

“I share DHS and TSA’s deep commitment to protecting our nation from terrorist attack and using the most advanced technology to do so. Keeping passengers safe necessitates their trust and cooperation, which requires assuring scanning devices pose no health risk.”

Blumenthal also asked the agencies to provide:

·         A list of companies providing the machines;

·         Correspondence and other documents between TSA and vendors regarding any health risks associated with the devices;

·         Any correspondence between TSA and the American National Standards Institute relating to radiation standards and backscatter x-ray machines;

·         Policies and procedures to assure the devices are properly maintained and monitored to prevent malfunctions that endanger airline passengers and operators.

DHS’ website says that the Food and Drug Administration Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the Commerce Department’s National Institute for Standards and Technology and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory evaluated the safety of the backscatter X-ray machines.

In fact, those organizations only determined that the devices meet radiation guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a nongovernmental entity, not their overall safety, according to media reports.