X-Ray scanning in prisons: ensuring safety and effectiveness
With drugs entering our prison systems on a regular basis, we need to address the “elephant in the room” that is the safety of X-ray scanning.
Historically, detection methods have developed from physical pat-downs to the intrusive and humiliating strip and body cavity searches to varying levels of electronic and scanning technology. Each method has its own level of effectiveness, but the reality of prisons requires total, not partial, effectiveness.
Since 1993, when the use of X-ray technology was allowed in non-medical uses, there have been concerns over its safety, including from prison authorities.
The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP, USA) recommended that the annual dose limit for the general public for continuous/frequent exposure should not exceed an effective dose of 1 mSv (excluding natural background and medical). That dose is roughly 1,000 Soter RS searches, per person, per year! That’s 3 scans a day to reach NCRP recommendations. This means there is no health risk if the cumulative dose is less than 1,000 microsieverts (uSv). Later, the NCRP stated that 250 uSv – as part of the 1,000 uSv ¬ can be used for security screening without a health risk.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standard 43.17-2009 Radiation Safety for Personnel Security Screening Systems Using X-Ray or Gamma Radiation, provides a chart showing dose levels, the annual number of scans and maximum annual dosage. Regulation over the use of body scanners is strict and rightly so.