With Expanded Use for Airport Security, Lawmaker Asks for Details of Safety and Health Data

WASHINGTON, DC – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and author of the mandate in the law to require screening of all air cargo carried on passenger planes, today sent a letter to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg seeking additional information about the research that has been performed to evaluate the safety and health impacts of general-use full-body x-ray screening systems that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently using to enhance aviation security.

“As millions of Americans board airplanes during the busy holiday season, we must ensure that the health, as well as the security, of the traveling public is protected.  For those who don’t want to put up with a pat down, body scanners are intended to protect against terrorists attempting to smuggle weapons or explosives onto passenger aircraft.  I am hopeful that full and timely responses to these questions will help clarify any impacts these machines may have on travelers and airport employees,” said Markey. 

Rep. Markey asked Commissioner Hamburg to provide responses to questions that include:

•    Whether FDA has examined any health effects that low level x-ray radiation produced by this scanning equipment may have on women who carry mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA or on other individuals who might be more inclined to experience adverse health effects from lower doses of radiation;
•    Whether the FDA has determined the cumulative risk of multiple exposures to the radiation emitted by the security scanning equipment for children and pregnant women;
•    Whether the FDA’s estimates of the doses of low level x-ray radiation expected to be received as a result of screening have been validated by actual measurements;
•    Do the assumptions that were made in the study of these machines change FDA’s view of their safety as a result of the machines current use as a primary rather than secondary screening method?   
•    Whether other technologies, including millimeter wave, could be used to achieve the same security outcome with lower health risk; and
•    What policies does the FDA have to ensure that any inappropriate dosage that occurs as a result from either human error or malfunctioning of the equipment is promptly reported to the FDA and the individual(s) who are likely to have received a higher dose, and that the machines are repaired?

Markey added, “At the same time that passengers are subjected to intrusive techniques deemed necessary to protect against terrorist attacks, I remain concerned that the Department of Homeland Security is not taking commensurate measures to ensure that all cargo placed on any aircraft headed to a U.S destination is screened for explosives. I will continue to fight to ensure that this security loophole is also closed and have introduced legislation to do so.”

A full copy of the letter can be found HERE

FDA's response can he found HERE .