Answer to Question #11881 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
Category: Security Screening — Airport Screening
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
Yesterday, after I placed my university bag in an x-ray luggage scanner, the bag didn't come out of the scanner because of so many things stuffed into my bag. So, I accidentally put my hands inside the scanner and grabbed my bag. After that, I am very worried and confused that I may have exposed myself to high levels of radiation. Is my concern correct?
You have nothing to be concerned about the few seconds that your hands were inside the airport x-ray luggage scanner. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an item that fully passes through the airport x-ray luggage scanner is exposed to 0.01 milligray (mGy) or less of radiation. For comparison, the average dose from natural background radiation is about 3 mGy each year to every part of your body.
I am a radiation worker, and the regulations allow my hands to get 500 mGy each year (where a mGy and a millisievert [mSv] are about equal). This limit is set to assure no detrimental health effects to me or my hands.
John Hageman, CHP
* Note that while the Health Physics Society uses International System units of mGy and mSv, the FDA website uses traditional units of millirads (mrad); 1 mrad = 0.01 mGy.