Tuesday, January 17, 2012
What Lies Beneath
On January 12, 2012 I wore my very best underwear. This was a very good thing. For on that very date while travelling from Toronto to Vancouver, I was body scanned. Some perfect stranger was paid $45 an hour plus benefits to see me naked in order to ensure airport safety.
I am getting scanned a lot lately given the amount I travel and therefore have made it a rule to always travel in my very Sunday best and ensure that my bra matches my panties. If you are presently giggling at the mention of the word “panties” – grow up my girlfriends- I can’t help using it- I am afterall, old school.
So there I was standing with my arms above my head in a vertical CAT scan machine waiting to be told if the “eye in the sky” was satisfied that I was not in fact carrying any explosive on my person.
First of all my girlfriends, I should say that I am of course a fan of a good and safe flight. No one wants their plane highjacked mid-air. This is not to make light of the atrocities performed in the name of terror of course. It is a given that when someone wishes you a “safe Flight” it really is implied that your flight should not be subjected to an explosion of any kind.
I am not sure however if a random CAT scan on the odd passenger is really going to make the skies any friendlier for us all. I do know this whole fancy pants process of seeing me naked in the name of airport security certainly does a good number for job creation.
Think about it- There is the man/woman who ushers me into the machine- of course he/she must first give me the option of being patted down first or having a little radiation in lieu of human contact.
Then there is the two or three people that need to stand around the CAT scanning machine to make it seem like a rather important piece of machinery. Nothing says TAKE ME SERIOUSLY like 3 dudes in uniform standing at its gates…. Look at Buckingham Palace. Nuff said. (yes I know I have switched to Gangsta rap- in my defense I’ve been watching a lot of HBO lately and it has caused my vernacular to take on a street induced edge. Yo.
On December 25, 2009 a passenger was stopped at the airport and apprehended while he was trying to smuggle explosives onto a Detroit bound plane.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Homeland Security immediately began pushing forward a plan to place full-body scanners in all American Airports.
With the Olympics coming to Canada in 2010- my home and native land also joined suit. It is estimated that there are 1000 scanners in airports across the US and at least 50 in Canada.
There are 2 types of full-body scanners in use. Each generates a detailed out- line of the human body for the purpose of identifying contraband hidden under clothing. The millimeter-wave scanners emit extremely low-energy waves—each scan delivers a small fraction of the energy of a cell phone—and the scanners capture the reflected energy.
Naturally occurring radiation is higher at the altitudes of commercial air flights because of the greater proximity to the sun. The radiation associated with a flight will vary with altitude and latitude, but overall, air travel is associated with an expo- sure of approximately 0.04 μSv/min of flight time. This is the equivalent to a chest x-ray.
Airport x-ray scans deliver the radiation equivalent to around 1 to 3 minutes of flight time. Put into context of the entire flight, if a woman embarks on a 6-hour flight, she will be exposed to approximately 14.3 μSv of radiation from the flight and 0.03 to 0.1 μSv from passing through the scanner at the airport. The scanner increases exposure to radiation by about 1%.
According to an article published in the Annals of Internal medicine in 2009, it has been estimated that amoung the 1 million frequent flyers who take 10 trips per week for 1 year, each lasting longer than 6 hours (60 hours of flying per week) 600 cancers occur in the lifetime of those 1 million people. There is estimated to be an additional 4 excess cancers as a result of the CT backscatter scans. Furthermore, remember that these 1 million people will get 400,000 cancers in their lifetime anyways….
Look at me doing cancer math! Such fun… in any case the issue here is that the CT scan at the airport is not going to kill me. That being said, I insist on wearing my best underwear for travel at all times.