UPDATE: The Transportation Security Administration has now determined that flight attendants as well as pilots are exempt from mandatory body-scans or pat-downs.
I have been a crew-member for a major airline for over 30 years now. In light of the new regulations requiring passengers and crewmembers to undergo either a body-scan or a pat-down, I would like to offer information which some may not be aware of:
1). The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Homeland Security are correct in stating that one body-scan will not cause enough radiation to harm you. However, the danger to our bodies from radiation comes mostly from cumulative effects of repeated exposure. I don’t hear anyone speaking about this in the news.
Crew-members will now be required, along with passengers, to be exposed to body scan radiation or be groped in a pat-down. For us this can be as frequent as 20 times per month, depending on our work schedules.
On Friday, November 19, TSA announced that pilots will be exempt from the new procedures. To date, flight attendants are still required to go through the screenings, same as passengers—although they have the same security clearances as pilots.
2) Many frequent travelers and crew-members alike have already been exposed to more than the yearly recommendation for safe levels of radiation—particularly those crew-members who fly regular overtime, or at high altitudes, or northern polar routes, such as to Europe. Recommended safe levels for pregnant flyers are much lower, even though our employers continue to downplay these facts.
3) And many of us, being the victims of corporate greed and a poor economy, are now being forced to fly overtime regularly just to support our families. Anyone who flys more than 80 hours a month can be at risk of overexposure.
4) A flight to New York and back exposes you to as much radiation as a chest X-ray. This is a fact that most doctors (and dentists) in this country are not even aware of. (Doctors in most European countries are, and generally do not let their patients fly when pregnant at all.)
5) If by chance you happen to be traveling by air during an extremely active time of high solar activity, during which solar storms and solar flares are occuring, it can be likely that factors could come together that would expose you to your yearly recommended dose of radiation in one flight. (Airlines may only receive information on solar storms one hour or less prior to flying, if at all. No changes to flight plans have ever been made, to my knowledge, because of extreme solar activity in the area of the flight path. At least not on my airline.)
6) Trained canines have been shown to be by far the best detectors, even of plastic explosives. (These dogs dont have to touch you, only to walk by you.)
7) El Al, the Isreali Airline, has always had the best security plan for screening (and, yes, profiling). They have a flawless record. Why aren’t we trying to adopt some of their proven procedures and methods instead of what we are being forced to accept now? Could it have anything to do with the fact that our former Homeland Security Secretary is now a paid consultant to the company that makes the new body scanners??
I hope that all flyers and crewmembers who are against being radiated will join together during the busy holiday weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas and choose the pat-down. If everyone chooses the pat-down during these busy times, it will create enough back-up and chaos to possibly have our message heard that we think enough is enough!
Teri Mueller Cooke is a crewmember for a major airline and lives in Goleta.