Last updated at 10:45 PM on 16th January 2012
Airport security officers are to be monitored for exposure to dangerous levels of radiation from the controversial scanners which are used to screen passengers before flights.
The Transport Security Administration's decision to give radiation-measuring devices to security officers in 100 U.S. airports comes after years spent dismissing claims that the scanners pose any health threat.
Security workers have long-complained that they were not being properly informed about the health risks by the TSA, and the federal agency's decision for further study only confirms their fears.
Exposure: Security workers have long-complained that they were not being properly informed about the health risks by the TSA
The machines have provoked health concerns about excessive radiation exposure since 2004 when a TSA study said that there were a handful of dangerous machines but then never removed the faulty ones.
Due to a lack of transparency during the tests, the fears continued to lurk among workers as the machines were used more and more as the years went on.
'We don't think the agency is sharing enough information,' said
'Radiation just invokes a lot of fear,' security worker spokesman Milly Rodriguez.told USA Today in 2010.
Initially deployed at dozens of airports to thwart attacks on the U.S. aviation system- which has continued to be a prime target of Al Qaeda militants- the radiation machines are at upwards of one hundred airports now.
Since the poor results in the 2004 study, the TSA has worked hard to stress that the machines are better-run and not dangerous.
‘The latest reports confirm previous testing and show that every backscatter unit currently used for passenger screening in U.S. airports is operating well within applicable national safety standards,’ said TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball in May after the latest round of tests.
Now, the TSA has ordered government vendors to produce dosimeters- wearable devices that measure radiation levels for security workers at over 100 airports across the country.
In total, there are about 486 full-body scanners in 78 airports in the U.S., of which 247 are so-called backscatter machines. They expose a person to about 0.0025 millirem of radiation.
The chosen airports- or even how those airports will be decided upon- have not been announced.
Test results released by TSA in March showed some anomalies, such as missing data or calculation errors unrelated to safety. The agency ordered new tests for the scanners as well as other X-ray equipment used to screen baggage that had problematic reports.
The machines cannot produce more than 0.005 millirem per scan, according to TSA. In comparison, a chest X-ray will expose someone to 10 millirem of radiation and the maximum recommended exposure to radiation from man-made sources is 100 millirem per year, according to TSA.
Scanning for trouble: The machines have been deployed at airports to thwart attacks on the U.S. aviation system- a prime target of al Qaeda militants
The May figures show a significant improvement in radiation levels as the TSA grew to adapt to their new scanners.
In 2003 and 2004, a national study found that six of 281 examined machines had radiation levels that violated national laws. After announcing such a disturbing finding, however, they did little to quell the workers fears as they did not identify which were the six dangerous machines.
'We continuously test out technology to ensure it is safe for both passengers and our officers and post all results to our website,' said TSA spokesman Nico Melendez.