Prof. Taly Gilat-Schmidt responds

Yesterday and the day before TSA News had two posts on misleading news reports about the supposed safety of backscatter (x-ray) scanners. Both posts quoted a recent Los Angeles Times article.

As we pointed out, the LA Times headline (the work of a copy editor, not a reporter) was inaccurate and misrepresented the research of the scientist whose study was quoted.

Today, that scientist, Taly Gilat-Schmidt, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University in Milwaukee, responds:

I appreciate your balanced discussion of my recent research article.

I would like to say that the LA Times did not accurately represent my statements about our research. I was very clear with the reporter that I could not draw any conclusions about risk from my work. But of course, a quote was taken out of context and turned into a very misleading headline.

I have posted a response statement on my website, which I invite you to include on your website:

Our study was not intended to estimate the risk. It is different from the UCSF study. Our purpose was to estimate the radiation deposited in specific organs and tissues, given the Hopkins exposure measurements, which are the only available exposure measurements. This is a valid research question, and we answered it with scientifically accepted methods. The paper was peer reviewed four times. We made no attempt to quantify risk. Our paper discusses in detail all limitations and assumptions that may affect our estimates. We make a call in the paper for more access to systems for independent measurements. I’ve attached a reprint of the paper for your review.

We hope that this study leads to more independent studies.

If you click on that link, you’ll see that the first words in bold are:

Our study on backscatter airport scanners did not quantify the risk of the scanners nor did it draw any conclusions about risk.

So the next time you hear the TSA defending the scanners and claiming that they’re “perfectly safe” or that they’ve been “rigorously tested,” remember Prof. Gilat-Schmidt’s statement.

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Mei Burgin)