Blumenthal questions airport X-ray machines

Jessica M. Karmasek Dec. 10, 2010, 1:00am


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is asking two federal agencies to provide his office with data "used to assess the safety" of the new X-ray machines being used in airports across the country.

The attorney general "especially" questions the safety of the machines for pregnant women and children. He made his concerns known to the the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration

"Media reports and other information have led consumer advocates, public officials and travelers to raise questions about whether the safety of backscatter X-ray machines has been fully and adequately evaluated," Blumenthal said in a statement Thursday.

"I'm asking TSA and DHS to provide data and studies used to assess the overall safety of these devices."

Blumenthal is asking the two agencies for the following:

- A list of companies providing the machines;

- Correspondence and other documents between TSA and vendors regarding any health risks associated with the devices;

- Any correspondence between TSA and the American National Standards Institute relating to radiation standards and backscatter X-ray machines; and

- Policies and procedures to assure the devices are properly maintained and monitored to prevent malfunctions that endanger airline passengers and operators.

The attorney general notes that DHS' website states that the safety of the machines has "been independently evaluated by" three independent entities -- the Food and Drug Administration Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the Commerce Department's National Institute for Standards and Technology, and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

But he points out that those organizations only determined that the devices meet radiation guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute, a nongovernmental entity, not their overall safety.

Blumenthal said the public "expects" and "deserves" a full scientific evaluation of the machines to assure them they pose no threat to human health.

"I share DHS and TSA's deep commitment to protecting our nation from terrorist attack and using the most advanced technology to do so," the attorney general said. "Keeping passengers safe necessitates their trust and cooperation, which requires assuring scanning devices pose no health risk."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

More News