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Is X-Ray Scanner Safe?

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Patient concerns are often based on the warnings health care providers have issued regarding medical X-rays. The Food and Drug Administration cautions patients to undergo X-ray imaging only when strictly necessary. But should people also be concerned about the X-Ray Baggage Scanner at airports?


Why is radiation used in security screening?

Radiation provides a reliable way to detect prohibited items such as weapons and explosives, in a quick and reproducible way, without harming the person or items being examined.


Is it safe to stand or walk near a x-ray system while it is producing x-rays?

Yes. Manufacturers are required to certify that their products meet the radiation safety performance standard for cabinet x-ray systems. Specifically, the standard requires that the radiation emitted from a cabinet x-ray system not exceed an exposure of 0.5 milliroentgens in one hour at any point five centimeters from the external surface. Most cabinet x-ray systems emit less than this limit. In addition, the standard also requires safety features that include warning lights, warning labels, and interlocks.

For comparison, the average person receives a dose of about 360 millirem of radiation per year from background radiation. (Note: 1 milliroentgen of exposure to x-rays will result in approximately 1 millirem of dose. These terms are defined later in this document.) Background radiation is radiation that is always present in the environment. Eighty percent of that exposure comes from natural sources: radon gas, the human body, outer space, rocks, and soil. The remaining 20 percent comes from man-made radiation sources, primarily medical x rays.

 X-Ray Baggage Scanner

Is it safe for pregnant women to stand or walk near a cabinet x-ray system while it is producing x-rays?

Yes. The limit on radiation emission established by the performance standard is sufficiently restrictive that there is no additional hazard for specific populations such as children or pregnant women. 


Is it safe to eat food, drink beverages, use medicine, or apply cosmetics if any of these products have gone through a cabinet x-ray system?

There are no known adverse effects from eating food, drinking beverages, using medicine, or applying cosmetics that have been irradiated by a cabinet x ray system used for security screening.

The radiation dose typically received by objects scanned by a cabinet x-ray system is 1 millirad or less. The average dose rate from background radiation is 360 millirad per year. The minimum dose used in food irradiation for food preservation or destruction of parasites or pathogens is 30,000 rad.


Will my electronic equipment be harmed by x-rays when it passes through a cabinet x ray system?

No, the x-ray dose received when a piece of electronic equipment is scanned by a cabinet x ray system used for security screening will not harm electronic equipment.


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