Earlier this year, the Congressional Biomedical Caucus – of which Holt is a co-chair – hosted a briefing by Dr. David Brenner of Columbia University on the potential health effects of “back scatter” x-ray devices. According to Dr. Brenner, the devices currently in use and proposed for wider deployment deliver to the scalp “20 times the average dose that is typically quoted by TSA and throughout the industry.” Dr. Brenner has pointed out that the majority of the radiation from X-ray backscatter machines strikes the top of the head, which is where 85 percent of the 800,000 cases of basal cell carcinoma diagnosed in the United States each year develop.
According to Dr. Brenner, excessive x-ray exposure can act as a cancer rate multiplier, which is why Holt has urged the government to investigate thoroughly the potential health risks associated with this technology. In August, Holt wrote to the House Committee on Appropriations calling for a freeze in funding for any further full-body scanning devices employing “back scatter” technology until the GAO completes its examination of the technology.
“I appreciate the challenges we face in trying to prevent terrorists from boarding American airliners. That same background also gives me an understanding of why TSA’s current obsession with fielding body imaging technology is misguided, counterproductive, and potentially dangerous,” Holt writes.