Forbes Nutrional Services

Airport Scanner Safety

It’s summer, which for many people means it’s time to travel.  I’ve had a lot of questions from people regarding the issue of whether full-body airport scanners (the big space elevator-looking things parked at more and more airport security lines) are safe, especially for people who may be more susceptible to radiation such as those who are pregnant or have a history of cancer.  Of course there is a HUGE amount of controversy surrounding this subject ranging from an individual’s right to privacy to the issue of national security to the health risks of radiation exposure.  There is an excellent excerpt from the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association titled “Pandora’s Boxes: Questions Unleashed in the Airport Scanner Debate” that sums up the health-related issues pretty well.  If you have time to read the entire text I really recommend it.  If you don’t have time (because you’re at the airport frantically deciding which security line to stand in) here is my 5-second summary:

  • The type of radiation used in most of these machines is likely to be carcinogenic (meaning it may cause cancer, probably by damaging DNA), but the doses are supposedly very low.  This is still not very reassuring to me since I am already exposed to small doses of daily radiation from my cell phone, wireless laptop, etc. and radiation exposure is cumulative.
  • The common estimate is that it would take 1,000 scans in an airport scanner to equal the amount of radiation you would receive in 1 chest x-ray.  However, the methods used to calculate this estimate have been questioned by studies including several performed by scientists at the University of California San Francisco.
  • The authors of the text were unable to find any large-scale studies done on humans or animals using this technology.  That is not a good sign – especially for something that is being placed in airports nationwide!

Another tidbit that I found in other articles was that scientists are questioning the safety of radiation that appears to only penetrate skin-deep and how that could lead to skin cancer in individuals who are predisposed.  To put it in perspective, airport scanners are not exposing people to enough radiation to cause skin to burn the way that prolonged exposure to UV radiation (sunlight) would but it is something to consider when looking at overall radiation exposure over a lifetime.

With all that said, here is what I do when I’m heading through airport security:

  • I decline the airport scanner line and instead ask for the standard metal detector/pat down treatment.  Many people don’t realize that this is a perfectly legal option and will not put you on the “suspicious activities” list!  You have a right to refuse to walk through something of questionable safety.  The pat down takes an extra 5-10 minutes so plan accordingly in your travel timing.  If you think this is a crazy and extreme thing to do, you can be encouraged by the fact that when I recently flew while still pregnant and refused the scanner line, the female TSA agent who did my pat down quietly said to me “Good for you honey, and good for your baby.  You should refuse this every time, pregnant or not.  These scanners are not good.  I don’t like working around them all day.”
  • I try to remember to take a dose of a good multivitamin and eat a few Brazil nuts prior to travel.  The multivitamin will supply zinc and B vitamins including folate and the nuts supply selenium. Zinc, B vitamins (especially folate), and selenium are three very important nutrients for DNA repair.  Even if you refuse the full-body scanner line, there is still exposure to radiation simply from the altitude at which the plane is flying.
  • Do what you can to support the immune system which is your surveillance system to help track down and destroy any pre-cancerous cells (not to mention bacteria and viruses you may be exposed to while traveling).  Things you can do to support your immune system include: drinking water, avoiding sugar, eating protein, getting sufficient rest, taking vitamin C and/or zinc lozenges, and utilizing immune-boosting herbs such as echinacea and elderberry.  One thing I DON’T recommend is taking Airborne products for travel.  The packaging is cute and it’s a nice idea but the last time I checked they all contained Splenda, an artificial sweetener that contains chlorine, as well as another artificial sweetener called Acesulfame Potassium.

Most importantly, I would say not to stress out too much about the whole issue!  Traveling in and of itself is stressful and overly stressing out about exposure to small amounts of radiation can also cause damage to DNA.  If you’re reading this after your thousandth trip through the full-body airport scanner and are worried your skin is going to mutate into its own person and walk away, please take comfort in the fact that the body is very smart and if you supply it with what it needs, it knows how to repair itself, all the way down to your DNA.

June 27, 2012   No Comments

Homemade Shave Oil Scrub

Tomorrow is Father’s Day!  Mr. Milk (my toddler – need to think of a new name for him since he’s been weaned for quite a while – at 2 years old Mr. Mischief seems appropriate) is at a birthday party with Daddy and Mr. Muscles (the newest addition to the family) is napping so I took this rare moment of peace and tranquility to whip together some homemade shave oil scrub to add to my husband’s shave-inspired Father’s Day gift.  We’ve recently gotten into reruns of Queer Eye on Netflix and he is especially intrigued by their shaving advice so I thought to get him some aftershave in his favorite fragrance which would be a true classic Father’s Day gift from his two boys.  Below is the recipe for the shave scrub I made just now in less than 3 minutes from ingredients I already had in the house!  Now he can exfoliate once a week before shaving just like the guys on tv tell him to.

The ingredients you need are:

  • Exfoliant – I used fine grind Celtic salt that I had in the cupboard.  Finely ground salt or sugar are the best because they dissolve and don’t clog your sink drain but ground oatmeal, almonds, or flax are good also.
  • Oil – I used coconut oil (of course!) but olive oil, almond oil, jojoba, or avocado would work.  Really almost any oil works, just don’t use a janky oil like canola or vegetable oil or something that will become rancid like cod liver oil or flax oil unless you like the smell of dead fish on your man!
  • Fragrance – I used jasmine essential oil to go with the coconut and appeal to my husband’s Hawaiian DNA.  Originally I was going to use peppermint oil but it was in the bedroom with my napping infant and there was no way I was going to go in there to retrieve it!  You can use any essential oil or combo of fragrances that you like.
  • A container – I had a nice glass flip-top container that I picked up at one of those organizational stores for $3.  A small glass mason jar would have worked also.

You want a ratio of 3 parts exfoliant to 1 part oil.  I had limited time so I just eyeballed it and filled the jar halfway with Celtic salt and then added about 1/3 that volume of coconut oil.

For a traditional body scrub the consistency should be like wet sand, but for shave scrub I wanted to add a little more oil to act as a moisturizer so the consistency was more liquid.  Safety note: don’t forget that this is oil so if you use it in the shower the floor will get slippery!

Once you have the scrub to desired consistency, add a few drops of your essential oil for fragrance and you’re all done!  Father’s Day gift complete – and it was so easy that our sweet boys could have almost made it themselves :)

June 16, 2012   No Comments

Homemade Body Butter

CB107516I love the body butter that I buy at the Body Shop but it is expensive and has a few questionable ingredients, so once I ran out of it I decided to make a homemade version.  I kept the body butter container, washed it out, and poured into it a combination of gently melted coconut oil (about 8 ounces) and my favorite essential oils (about 30 drops).  Swirl this mix a few times so the ingredients blend together, then store in a cool place until the coconut oil solidifies. 

This stuff works great as a moisturizer or lip balm with the added benefits of nourishing the skin, preventing scars, reducing the visibility of existing scars, and preventing stretch marks.

March 6, 2009   2 Comments