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Airport full-body scanners raise concerns

Full-body scanners may soon be coming to an airport near you. The Transportation Security Administration hopes to have nearly 1,000 full-body scanners at airports throughout the U.S. by the end of 2011. But there are concerns.

A group of doctors and professors from U.C. San Francisco are worried about the safety of one type of scanner built by Rapiscan Inc.

From the L.A. Times:

To reveal weapons hidden under a traveler's clothes, the scanner relies on "backscatter technology," which uses the ricochets from low-level X-rays to create what looks like a nude image of the person. Health concerns have been raised in the past by activists and bloggers. In contrast, the latest safety questions are being raised by professors of biochemistry and biophysics and experts in imaging, cancer and crystals. They said they fear that the scanners may expose the skin to high doses of X-rays that could increase the risk of cancer and other health problems, particularly among older travelers, pregnant women and people with weak immune systems.

The team has asked the White House to look into the matter. Department of Homeland Security officials said there's no reason to worry because the risks are so low they're almost negligible.

Besides body concerns, though, there are also lingering privacy issues.

You might have heard of the case of Rolando Negrin, a TSA worker in Miami, who beat up his co-worker after enduring months of genitalia jokes for his apparent shortcomings after he used the full-body scanning machine.

That case drew attention to the privacy issues associated with these machines. The TSA says they are working on new safeguards to prevent these types of jokes and harassment.

You can follow all of our travel coverage here.

Would you mind using a full-body travel scan?

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.

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