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Letters: TSA scanners and safety

June 24, 2012

Re "TSA full-body scanners pose little risk, study says," June 11

The Times reported on an academic, peer-reviewed paper we coauthored. We'd like to clarify some points.

Our study did not quantify the risk of backscatter security scans. The study estimated, using computer simulations, the radiation dose to individual organs. As stated in the paper, "Access to the machines for measurements and assessments is limited." Therefore our models were based on measurements from a Johns Hopkins University study commissioned by the Transportation Security Administration, a limitation prominently discussed in our paper.

We did not draw conclusions about risk. Our study concludes that the scanners deposit radiation in tissues beyond the skin and that the effective dose is below recommended standards, assuming the TSA data is accurate.

We hope our study will encourage more public disclosure of scanner details and will ultimately lead to more independent studies on the radiation, safety and efficacy of these scanners.

Taly Gilat Schmidt and Michael Hoppe

Milwaukee

Schmidt is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Marquette University, where Hoppe is a graduate student.

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