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TSA gathering info about radiation measurement devices for its airport screeners

TSA is looking for vendors that could help it measure the levels of ionizing radiation that its security screeners are exposed to at U.S. airports.

“The measurements will assist the TSA in determining if the Transportation Security Officers (TSO) at selected federalized airports are exposed to ionizing radiation above minimum detectable levels, and whether any measured radiation doses approach or exceed the threshold where personnel dosimetry monitoring is required by DHS/TSA policy,” says a request for information (RFI) document made public by TSA on Dec. 29, 2011.

The agency is required by federal safety regulations to undertake periodic examinations of its radiation-emitting equipment.

In response to an inquiry by Government Security News, TSA spokesman Mike McCarthy said on Jan. 4 that the recently-issued RFI did not reflect any heightened concern by the agency about radiation levels that might be excessive or pose a risk to either TSA screeners or members of the traveling public.

“TSA continuously tests all of our technologies to ensure that they meet all applicable standards,” McCarthy told GSN. He noted that previous tests that TSA has conducted have demonstrated that the radiation levels at U.S. airports pose no dangers. Many of those test reports are posted publicly on TSA’s Website.

Industry experts, who requested anonymity, said they were unaware of any specific evidence that radiation levels are too high at airport security checkpoints, but one specialist told GSN he would be concerned if he were a TSA security screener who worked in close proximity to  X-ray screening equipment for eight hours a day.

A second radiation measurement expert, who acknowledged he had no recent experience with airport screening equipment, said he imagined TSA was requesting information from dosimetry companies because its employees might be worried about their exposure to background radiation.

“Employees get nervous about possible hazards and raise a stink about it,” this expert noted. He said his company has sold many dosimetry devices in the wake of the Fukushima reactor disaster in Japan last year because employees at some U.S. companies had become overly worried about radiation exposure.


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