radiation exposure

  1. TSA refuses new study on airport scanners

    It's outright insane if you stop to think about it: In order to "protect" air passengers, the U.S. government is blasting them all with dangerous levels of radiation from full-body X-ray scanners.

    Not exactly how I like my "protection" -- especially since the feds won't provide any honest-to-goodness safety data on these machines.

    It seemed like we were finally getting somewhere earlier this year when the TSA told Sen. Susan Collins it would authorize an independent safety study. You'd think they would have done that before they installed these machines at every airport -- but better late than never, right?

    Well, it might be "never" after all -- because TSA administrator John Pistole recently told Congress that the study is off.

    The question has to be asked: What are they so afraid of?

    I think it's pretty obvious: Radiation exposure -- even the small amounts used in these machines -- can cause DNA damage and cellular changes. Over time, that can lead to cancer.

    These machines use backscatter radiation, which goes beneath the clothes and concentrates on the skin itself -- so TSA agents can view a "naked" picture of you and see what you might be hiding without having to look at your bones, liver, guts, etc.

    But since that radiation focuses on the skin, it can build up there and boost the risk of skin cancers, especially among those most often exposed, like regular air travelers.

    And who knows what kind of risks these machines will pose to pregnant women, children, and infants.

    One expert says he thinks X-ray scanners will cause 100 cancer cases each year -- and while that may sound like a small number, why put even a single life on the line in the name of security?

    Even if you agree that the government should get a look at everyone's naked body before boarding an airplane -- and I don't -- there are machines that can do it without using a drop of radiation.

    The feds even have the machines, and are using them in some airports -- but they insist on using the X-ray machines right along with them.

    Even Europe has said they'll only use the radiation-free machines -- and they've actually banned the X-ray scanners from their airports until they see some actual scientific data proving they're safe.

    I hope they're not holding their breath.

  2. Common tests may offer deadly dose of radiation

    How much radiation have you been exposed to today?

    Americans are being zapped with potentially harmful rays from diagnostic tests with alarming regularity – alarming because, in many cases, you never need to take that risk in the first place.

    A new report finds that more than half of all abdominal CT scans are unnecessary.

    What makes this news all the more frightening is that these scans are far more powerful than traditional X-rays. In fact, the report presented at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America found that the average CT scan uses enough radiation to power 113 X-rays – with some people getting far more, equivalent to 500 or even 1,000 X- rays.

    I wonder how many of these patients knew what they were being hit with – or the odds that their test wasn't even necessary in the first place.

    I'm guessing many didn't – and probably wouldn't have signed up for an abdominal CT scan if they did.

    Here's something else I'll bet they didn't know: The researchers in this study concluded that abdominal CT scans lead to around 23,000 radiation-induced cancers every year.

    But now you know. And if your doctor starts ordering up these tests, start asking some questions first – no matter what type of scan he's trying to perform.

    Sadly, it's up to you to distinguish a doctor trying to help you from a doctor looking to make a few extra dollars off testing – to separate the scans from the scams.

    Radiation exposure is practically an epidemic in this country – while this frightening new report looked only at abdominal CT scans, another recent study found that up to 4 million Americans are exposed to high levels of radiation every year. That's more people than in the entire city of Los Angeles.

    Yet another recent report found that Americans today are typically hit with seven times the amount of radiation from diagnostic tests than we were 30 years ago.

    I'm sure some of that is due to more powerful testing becoming more widely available. But I'm just as sure that in many cases, people are being forced to repeat tests for multiple doctors who aren't talking to each other (even if you might assume they are), and doctors who just order up these tests willy-nilly to help pay the bills.

    For you, that means being more vigilant, more proactive and asking more questions – like why your doc thinks you may need a test, what he thinks the test might reveal, what your alternatives are and what would happen if you didn't get that scan.

    Also make sure that if you have multiple doctors, they're on the same page – if one doctor is convinced you need a diagnostic test, and you agree, then make sure your other doctors get the results so you can avoid duplicate tests later on.

    Remember, if you don't stick up for yourself – no one else will.

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