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Criminal defense issues aside, the right to privacy also includes personal decisions affecting one’s health and welfare.  The voice of medical expertise is being added to the growing chorus of dissent against the new backscatter x-ray technology being employed by the government at airports throughout the United States.

It is well-established that cases involving medical issues require immediate resolution.  See generally Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).  The recently published opinion of a medical expert supports the concern that the new x-ray technology poses dangerous health risks.  Therefore, we have reached the dangerous intersection of health risk and the fundamental constitutional right to privacy.

The other side of the coin is the threat of terroristic bloodshed carried out by inculcated “martyrs” who may be ready and willing to secrete difficult to detect plastic explosives inside of body cavities to carry out their “life mission” in the name of their extremist “cause.”

Read on and educate yourself about all of the facets of this important social debate as we approach a “brave new world” where technology is poised to transcend the values of a “free society.”

Dr. Blaylock has offered his “opinion” (“Body Scanners More Dangerous Than Feds Admit”) based on his understanding of the facts, and there will be other experts who will offer their diagonally-opposed “opinions” based on their “facts” holding out the hope that the new x-ray technology will never pose any threat to human health.  It is a thorny debate and a legal issue of constitutional magnitude.

If you travel by airplane, staying informed is in your own best interest.  As trial judges instruct juries on qualified expert witnesses, you are free to accept or reject all or part of any doctor’s “expert opinion.”  My concerns continue to be health and privacy tempered with a heavy dose of realism.

Dr. Blaylock: Body Scanners More Dangerous Than Feds Admit

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 9:58 AM

By Dr. Russell Blaylock

Dr. Russell Blaylock is a board-certified neurosurgeon, health practitioner, author, and lecturer.

The growing outrage over the Transportation Security Administration’s new policy of backscatter scanning of airline passengers and “enhanced pat-downs” brings to mind these wise words from President Ronald Reagan: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.’”

So, what is all the concern really about — will these radiation scanners increase your risk of cancer or other diseases? A group of scientists and professors from the University of California at San Francisco voiced their concern to Obama’s science and technology adviser John Holdren in a well-stated letter back in April.

The group included experts in radiation biology, biophysics, and imaging, who expressed “serious concerns” about the “dangerously high” dose of radiation to the skin.

Radiation increases cancer risk by damaging the DNA and various components within the cells. Much of the damage is caused by high concentrations of free radicals generated by the radiation. Most scientists think that the most damaging radiation types are those that have high penetration, such as gamma-rays, but in fact, some of the most damaging radiation barely penetrates the skin.

One of the main concerns is that most of the energy from the airport scanners is concentrated on the surface of the skin and a few millimeters into the skin. Some very radiation-sensitive tissues are close to the skin — such as the testes, eyes, and circulating blood cells in the skin.

This is why defenders using such analogies as the dose being “1,000-times less than a chest X-ray” and “far less than what passengers are exposed to in-flight” are deceptive. Radiation damage depends on the volume of tissue exposed. Chest X-rays and gamma-radiation from outer space is diffused over the entire body so that the dose to the skin is extremely small. Of note, outer space radiation does increase cancer rates in passengers, pilots, and flight attendants.

We also know that certain groups of people are at a much higher risk than others. These include babies, small children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with impaired immunity (those with HIV infection, cancer patients, people with immune deficiency diseases, and people with abnormal DNA repair mechanism, just to name a few).

As we grow older, our DNA accumulates a considerable amount of unrepaired damage, and under such circumstances even low doses of radiation can trigger the development of skin cancers, including the deadly melanoma. I would also be concerned about exposing the eyes, since this could increase one’s risk of developing cataracts.

About 5 percent of the population have undiagnosed abnormal DNA repair mechanism. When exposed to radiation, this can put them at a cancer risk hundreds of times greater than normal people.

It also has been determined that when skin is next to certain metals, such as gold, the radiation dose is magnified 100-fold higher. What if you have a mole next to your gold jewelry? Will the radiation convert it to a melanoma? Deficiencies in certain vitamins can dramatically increase your sensitivity to radiation carcinogenesis, as can certain prescription medications.

As for the assurances we have been given by such organization as the American College of Radiology, we must keep in mind that they assured us that the CT scans were safe and that the radiation was equal to one chest X-ray. Forty years later we learn that the dose is extremely high, it is thought to have caused cancer in a significant number of people, and the dose is actually equal to 1,000 chest X-rays.

Based on these assurances, tens of thousands of children have been exposed to radiation doses from CT scanners, which will ruin the children’s lives. I have two friends who were high-ranking Environmental Protection Agency scientists, and they assure me that in government safety agencies, politics most often override the scientists’ real concerns about such issues.

When the real effects of these scanners on health become known, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and the rest of the gang who insist the scanners are safe will be long gone.

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