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Going Away For The Holidays? Opt Out of Health Damaging Airport Scanners


Great things were expected of terahertz (THz) waves, the radiation that fills the slot in the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and the infrared. However, emerging evidence suggests that airport scanning technology uses THz radiation which could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.

The past several years the possible health risks from cumulative exposure to THz waves was mostly dismissed. Experts pointed to THz photons and explained that they are not strong enough to ionize atoms or molecules; nor are they able to break the chains of chemical bonds. They assert—and it is true—that while higher energy photons like ultraviolet rays and X-rays are harmful, the lower energy ones like terahertz waves are basically harmless.

While that is true, there are other biophysics at work. Some studies have shown that THZ can cause great genetic harm, while other similar studies have shown no such evidence of deleterious affects.

Alexandrov and co have created a model to investigate how THz fields interact with double-stranded DNA and what they've found is remarkable. They say that although the forces generated are tiny, resonant effects allow THz waves to unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication. That's a jaw dropping conclusion.

And it also explains why the evidence has been so hard to garner. Ordinary resonant effects are not powerful enough to do do this kind of damage but nonlinear resonances can. These nonlinear instabilities are much less likely to form which explains why the character of THz genotoxiceffects are probabilistic rather than deterministic, say the team.

This should set the cat among the pigeons. Of course, terahertz waves are a natural part of environment, just like visible and infrared light. But a new generation of cameras are set to appear that not only record terahertz waves but also bombard us with them. And if our exposure is set to increase, the question that urgently needs answering is what level of terahertz exposure is safe.

"Anything that interferes with DNA replication can cause cell death," said geneticist Andrew Lau. "Cell mutations and chromosomal aberrations would likely be more common once such scanners are implemented." Lau stated that the cumulative radiation would likely affect passengers in the long-term.

So although opting out of the scanning protocols at airports may mean a pat down this holiday season, it is certainly the lesser of the two evils for your health.

Sources:

softpedia.com
technologyreview.com
helium.com


Reference Sources
December 17, 2010


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