TSA To Shield Screeners From Radiation; Agency Maintains Safety Claim

pix11.com | @erica_pitzi

6:28 PM EST, January 10, 2012

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For years, airport passengers and workers have had concerns about radiation exposure from the x-ray screening machines, and the TSA, in charge of aggressively approving the installation of so-called 'back-scatter' machines across the country, continues to claim they are safe.

Now, however, the TSA is taking a proactive stance to protect its own 45,000 workers in airports across the country.

Studies have shown the levels of exposure to radiation are too low to matter for passengers who pass thru within minutes.

But what about the TSA workers who sit near the machines for hours? The union representing them says it's been voicing concern for years. "We are very happy TSA is looking at this. It's been a concern for our members since the beginning," said union spokesperson Milly Rodriguez.

TSA is looking into an updated plan to ensure the safety of it's employees.

Enter the dosimeter.

Hospital workers are well are of the tiny device that measures the level of exposure to radiation. As a radiologist for 20 years, Doctor Munir Ghesani wears his all the time.

"It's a great idea," said Ghesani.

He says airport security screeners are not likely to be exposed to much radiation since it is the passenger who gets direct exposure. Still, Ghesani is concerned with the cumulative contact.

"For that person who may be screening 50 to 100 passengers, it all adds up. So even though the employee gets indirect exposure, sheer numbers really add up," said Dr. Ghesani.

That makes passengers worry for the safety of the very people who help keep them safe while traveling.

"I hope they implement that and find out it's on the up and up. No reason your job should put your health in jeopardy," said Kathy Chitwood on her way home to Illinois.

This is not a done deal. TSA workers are not wearing those dosimeters just yet.

TSA has simply made a formal request to look into this. The agency still maintains it's workers are safe, adding, radiation levels are too low for those devices to detect anyways. What TSA is interested in is finding a company that can make a dosimeter that will work in the airport environment.

However, radiation experts say, even a low dose of radiation can be a problem over a long period of time.

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