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I was thinking about getting my kids onto a plane for the first time in my life and two things bugged me. First is what lesson I wanted to teach my children about the role of government as we get strip searched in an airport just because we want to fly to see our cousins. Do I make a scene? Do I ask the children to ask questions of the TSA workers?

Second, and more important, are those nudie-scanners and metal detectors safe? Has the FDA issued an approval of these devices just like they do other medical devices or food products? And where are all of the consumer advocacy groups and health conscious groups “raising awareness” about these sorts of things? I would be a lot of money that these machines pose far greater health risks than some of the things folks are hysterical about – like GM food.

Seriously, pumping ionized radiation into my body? Into childrens’ bodies? Where are all of those folks who believe in the Precautionary Principle? We are having another one of those “Uh Oh” inconsistency moments again, aren’t we? If terrorism poses a potentially grave threat we should take all precautions against it, of course those precautions are posing grave threats to our health too? Which one wins? And what does this tell us about the usefulness of the Precautionary Principle?

3 Responses to “Are Those Things Safe?”

  1. J Storrs Hall says:

    There are two forms of the nudie scanners, millimeter-wave radar and back-scatter X-ray. The former is not ionizing radiation at all, the second is but not very — think of it as very far ultraviolet light. It is used at a level such that you get a much lower dose from it than you get from being at a high altitude in the airplane. So there are really no significant radiation worries — and yes, they have done extensive testing.

    What they don’t tell you is how good the picture is. The actuality is that you can tell if a man is circumcised or not …

  2. Harry says:

    I went through one of the full-body scanners in Amsterdam, the most chaotic airport I have ever been in, and I have been in fifteen thousand airports, spending years in them. Happily, my years of heavy travel did not require what travelers have to endure today.

    I have read much about airport security, and I understand about the shoes. You cannot pack a big bomb package into a pair of Gucci loafers, but you can pack a lot into a big pair of sneakers. I am not so sure that it is logical to force every Anglo-Saxon buisnessman to put his tassel loafers into the tray, but the security experts say it is.

    Wintercow asks a serious question about his young children being radiated at whatever level to pass muster from the police. Our carry-on bags have been passed through X-ray machines since the days of hijacking planes to Cuba, but they never required us to lie down on the belt, too.

    In the meantime, our government outs a covert agent who discovered an underwear plot (btw, why not an international mandate for everybody to buy boxer shorts?) in Yemen.

    Make me the Homeland Czar, and kids get into the airport fast. Anybody named Rizzo, even if he looks like a terrorist (he is!) gets into the fast lane. Password fhayek.

  3. … I was thinking about getting my kids onto a plane for the first time in my life and two things bugged me. First is what lesson I wanted to teach my children about the role of government …

    Well, yes, as a passenger in mass transit, you are treated like the cargo you are. At first, I thought you were going to have them learn how to fly. You see, when you have your own plane (or rent one), the rules are all different. I have written extensively about learning to fly. A kid can get certified to fly while too young to drive a car. With an airplane, after you take off, you make sure the ship is trim by taking your hands off the controls and letting it fly. Try that with a car…

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