Effects of airport X-Ray machines

I fly frequently (twice a week) and usually request the airport security checkpoint personnel to hand search my prescription drugs, rather than send them through the X-ray machine. My theory is that there may be a cumulative effect of radiation from x-raying these 104 times a year, and they are substances which I ingest. Naturally, this annoys the security guards no end, and they argue with me, but they are not exactly authorities on radiation (one told me recnetly that the machine only emits “microwaves.”) I have even thought about having them hand search my fanny pack since I wear that in a rather, uh, sensitive area as well. So who can tell me the REAL story here? What kind of microcuries or rads do these devices emit? Does anyone really know, or do we just rely on the constant “reassurances” of the airline industry, not known for its candor about dangerous situations? Am I being silly to worry about the cumulative effects of the radiation?

First of all, no matter how powerful they are, X-Rays cannot make things radioactive. Only neutrons can do that. Exposing your pills or even your food to high-powered radiation will kill any nasty bacteria or parasites, but it won’t kill you since the radiation doesn’t stay inside the food.

If it bothers you, don’t carry an entire years supply with you on a half week trip.

As far as the danger to the medication, ask the psychiatrist who prescribed them to you. :wink:

X-rays don’t cling. They can cause cell damage due to eminent exposure, so you want to avoid irradiation, but once your medication and fanny paraphernalia exit the X-ray machine, there’s no radiation “attached” to them. I will note that X-rays can cause chemical changes in some compounds, but I could find no data to suggest that there is ever a risk with any medications. I would suspect that if such a risk existed, that your medication would be clearly labeled “DO NOT EXPOSE TO X-RAYS” or something similar.

So stop worrying. You’re much more likely to be killed in an airplane crash than from exposure to X-rays at the airport… [wink]

Well, any other high-energy particle or hard gamma rays can do it too. Regardless, though, x-rays fall far short of being able to render things radioactive. They can cause chemical changes, and they can certainly damage living tissue, but there’s exactly zero risk from having your fanny pack scanned.