Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Real reason we don't trust the government

Americans believe an amazing range of kooky things. FEMA has death camps, fluoridation corrupts your bodily fluids, the existence of UFOs are more likely than the survival of social security, Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and so on.

In the old soviet union, rumors like these came about because everyone knew that the state media was just spewing propaganda. Americans believe this crap because the Internet allows any idea, no matter how crazy to get equal footing with just about everything else.

But not every rumor is unfounded. As the saying goes, just because I'm paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get me. Things such as the air at ground zero is perfectly safe and toxic sludge is good for you seriously erode what little faith people have in government institutions.

Now there is this:

The US government skirted over the radiation safety concerns of airport X-ray machines

According to a new report by ProPublica and the PBS NewHour, the US government has gone ahead with the controversial scanners despite serious concerns from radiation safety experts. The scanners are expected to be in place in every American airport security lane by as early as 2014. This is a big reversal from as recently as 1998, when the device's own inventor, Steven W. Smith, told a panel of radiation safety experts, said he didn't think such devices would be used at lower-security facilities - such as airports.

People don't seem to appreciate that every decision has a cost. Want more intrusive security to feel safer when you fly. You might be increasing your chance of cancer. Proponents argue that the increased risk is very small.

UC San Francisco radiologist Rebecca Smith-Bindman found that the radiation emitted by the machines would lead to six cancers in the lifetime of a year's worth of airline passengers, while Columbia's David Brenner placed the figure at as high as a hundred. Those, however, are out of a total of 100 million airline passengers, meaning the odds of developing cancer from a backscatter machine are at worst about one in a million. And, as Smith-Bindman points out, those same 100 million people will develop about 40 million cancers over the course of their lifetimes, with or without the scanners.

On average that is true. But if you are one of the many Americans who has high risk factors or has already had cancer, the average> risk may not be relevant to you. Radiation risk is cumulative. the more you play the game, the stronger the odds you'd hit.

The rest can be found here.

1 comment:

B-Daddy said...

Thanks for the clear elucidation of the issue. Trade offs like this require informed consent of the citizens, which can't happen when the government lies and hides the truth.