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:

Q

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?

A

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.

The FDA website discusses radiation-emitting machines or go to www.FDA.gov and search "frequently asked questions on cabinet x-ray systems" and see Q8.*

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.

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 17 February 2017. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.