Legitimate cancer scare over powerful rays

Worried about security guards at U.S. airports looking at your junk with X-ray scanners? Maybe you should worry instead about the potential cancer risk posed by the U.S.’s new see-through-your-car scanners.

CNet reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to erect giant metal-penetrating X-ray scanners – powerful enough to see through your car – at U.S.-Mexican border crossings.

(We’re cool up here on their northern border. For now.)

The “Z-Portal” scanners will use X-Ray or gamma technology to check cars and buses for drugs or explosives. Medical professionals are worried the technology’s use of ionizing radiation could be dangerous.


“Society will pay a huge price in cancer because of this,” said John Sedat,a biophysics professor at the University of California at San Francisco. It is unclear whether people will be given the option to decline the scan as they are at airport security checkpoints.

The scanners, which Homeland Security calls “Low Energy Drive Through Portal Non-Intrusive Inspection Systems,” have been banned in Europe. That’s because ionizing radiation, in large doses, can “damage living tissue, rearrange chromosomes, and raise cancer risks,” reports CNet.

Homeland Security and the scanners’ manufacturer, American Science and Engineering, says the doses are small enough to be safe, but other experts say that’s only if the car continuously moves through the scanners and doesn’t stop.

Now we’re going to have to update our list of border crossing tips to include “Don’t go through one of those giant X-rays.”

(CNet via TTAC)