Yes, Airport Millimeter Wave Scanners Alter DNA

Every year millions of people pass through whole-body millimeter wave and x-ray scanners in US airports with the trust that our government agencies have throughly investigated the health effects of such devices. And even though the EU & UK have banned such technologies, the public is continuously assured that these technologies are perfectly safe.

The common arguments for ensuring their safety usually revolve around:

  1. The logical fallacy that because the radiation dose is below arbitrary ANSI standards for annual radiation risk, then they are perfectly safe for use by passengers.
  2. The logical fallacy that because one receives more radiation from the act of flying itself, the scanners are perfectly safe for use.

The Science of X-ray & Millimeter Wave Technology


Backscatter machines produce low-energy X-rays, which have a wavelength on the order of 1×10-10 meters. The evidence of negative health effects of x-rays is pretty well accepted at this point, as evidenced by the EU’s ban on all airport x-ray scanners.

Health effects of millimeter wave scanners, however, still seem to be debated. These devices produce microwaves with wavelengths that fall exactly between 10-4  meters (1 millimeter) and 10-3 meters (10 millimeters). Notice where that lands in the image above. Yep…right around the microwave spectrum. Interesting that they decided to call them millimeter wave scanners as opposed to microwave scanners. Might the name “Microwave Scanners” immediately raised concern? Amazing what the power of a little terminology can do.

The thought is that such long wavelengths don’t affect proteins and DNA in eukaryotes (like us humans) and only have a thermal effect on tissue since it is in the “non-ionizing” class of radiation.

But what if they do impact DNA?

The power density of millimeter wave scanners fall between 10-8 and 10-7 W/cm2, which seems pretty insignificant until you read this paper which shows that millimeter waves at power densities as low as 10-11 W/cm2 have an effect on DNA, RNA, & proteins.

Research Study Results

“It should be emphasized that the millimeter wave effects at the power density involved can not be explained by trivial heating. Statistically signifi­cant changes in CCS (chromatin conformational state aka DNA, RNA, and proteins) were induced by millimeter waves at 10-9 W/cm2.”

“Experimental evidence for the resonance effect of millimeter wave at very low intensity is another impor­tant result of this work. The power density dependence has a section of logarithmic growth from 10-11 to 10-7  W/cm2.

“We also emphasize that, as in the case of E. coli cells, the CCS changes of rat thymocytes are determined, at a molecular level, by the changes in the cooperative binding of a number of structural and functional proteins to chromosomal DNA.”

In light of this clear evidence out of the Russian research literature, it would be very wise to “opt out” of the scanning devices until our government health organizations recognize the negative health impacts and remove such devices from US airports.

And if the documented alteration of eukaryote DNA wasn’t enough, the millimeter wave scanners are also wildly ineffective, bolstering a 54% rate of false positives.

About The Author

Jason Prall is a nationally-recognized speaker, performance coach, Functional Nutritionist, and leading expert in lifelong, optimized health. As a frequent contributor to a variety of health and wellness publications, founder of Calyx Performance, and the host of the You Optimized Radio podcast, Jason's revolutionary and innovative approach has transformed the lives of thousands of people around the world with simple, practical, and powerful solutions to combat chronic health conditions and drastically improve quality of life.


  1. Karla Maree

    I have been saying that for a long time (without all the great science and numbers behind it), but I have known for a long time these scanners are very bad news!

    Great article that no one in power, sadly, will read. It is all about “security theater,” all the bells and whistles and little to show for it (except damage to our DNA). It is ridiculous!

    1. Jason Prall

      Keep it up Karla! All we can do is create awareness and hopefully influence the public so as to demand change. That is the way out of this mess.

  2. Anthony

    The last time I flew, I did the pat down, which felt so invasive that I actually think it was designed to give people that reaction so that they will just give in and go through the machine. By even putting those machines in the airports in the first place, I really felt like I was put in a situation where my personal bodily safety was not considered the way it should have been, under the guise of supposed anti terror safety. Despite what any studies say about safety, this is one of thousands of examples of people being exposed to man-made influences that we really don’t understand which I think will be looked back on decades from now as horrific causes of any number of health problems.

    1. Jason Prall

      Agree wholeheartedly Anthony…

    2. James

      Hahaha. I have fun with the pat down. I wink at the TSA agent and tell them I’m ready for my complimentary airport massage. We usually both have a little chuckle, and it lightens the mood. I figure I may as well have some fun with the person who will be brushing against my genitalia with the back of their hand and rifling through my personal possessions. It’s so intimate. Lol.

  3. Lisa

    I didnt know the science either…rather just had a “knowing” not to go through them. I get the pat down.

  4. Daniel

    Once when I had opt out and was waiting to be called for body search a pregnant person asked the person in charge if it was safe for her unborn baby to go through the scanner. She was assured it was safe. I was going to say something, but without the actual research, I kept quite, which also made me feel guilty. It is nice to know about this research so we can share it with people we do not even know now.

  5. RadiExposure

    The scientists and researchers seem to be finding the same information and results as what is discussed in this article. Research the science behind the noted concerns of radiation.
    We at RadiExposure, Inc. are very aware of these issues because we see the effects in peoples’ cells. For anyone interested, we have a solution.

  6. Sarah Hicks

    I was 6 months pregnant with my first and asked to opt out of the scan a few years ago in Sydney. They refused to give another option. They said that i wouldn’t be able to go through and therefore not be able to travel until i did. A pretty awful experience really.

    1. Jason Prall

      That is really sad to hear. I really hope this isn’t the norm in Sydney.

  7. Fripit

    The UK hasn’t banned them. I have to opt out everytime I’m in London.

    1. Jason Prall

      The UK has reportedly banned x-ray backscatter machines, not the millimeter wave scanners.

  8. Alicia

    I’ll risk it rather than be touched by a stranger. Before the machines I almost got arrested because of my outrage at their insistence on touching me.

    1. Jason Prall

      I completely understand and respect your choice. Sadly, there aren’t any perfect alternatives, but you may want to look into TSA Pre-check as a method to avoid the scanner and being groped.

  9. Jenny

    Please explain clearly and briefly what harm this would do to a unborn baby?


    1. Jason Prall

      What can cause harm to the cellular architecture of an adult can surely cause this same harm to the cellular architecture of a fetus. The precise risk of harm is not for me to really hypothesize and create unfounded fear, but I would highly suspect the risk is greater due to the undeveloped nature of the delicate unborn child.

  10. Sylvain Racine

    Hi !
    I just read the article
    I travel all the time by plane for work and unfortunately true the USA
    And there is more and more scanning even before reading the article I was suspicious about that machine
    I guess we will have to stop travelling all together
    This is insane !
    It said we have alternatives to being scanned by millimeter wave scanner
    What are they ?

    1. Jason Prall

      Currently your options are to “opt out” and receive a pat down or to register with TSA Pre-Check. Each have their benefits and drawbacks depending on your personal view on privacy.

  11. Erik Stark

    Thanks for the article. I am puzzled about one thing however. If the “milimeter wave” scanners as they like to call them do fall in the range of 10(-4) meters to 10(-3) meters, then according to the diagram that puts them in the Infrared range. Really on the border between Microwaves and Infrared, but into the Infrared at 10(-4) meters. So if we were doing truth in advertising, shouldn’t they be called “Infrared Scanners” vs. “Microwave Scanners”?

    1. Jason Prall

      The diagram shows approximate bands. The bands don’t have defined cut-offs in reality. These named bands are man-made distinctions for the purposes of making things easier and generalizing various effects. They aren’t “real” in the true sense of things. So to answer your question…it doesn’t really matter what you call them. They have the wavelength they have and they affect what they affect.

  12. debra

    I’ll oot out for the pat down next time!!!

  13. Erica

    How protected are we standing on the outside of the scanners? Because I’ve noticed that waiting for a TSA person usually takes a 5 minutes or longer and we are standing right next to the scanners for all of that time.

    1. Jason Prall

      Standing outside the scanners probably isn’t that big of a deal. I wouldn’t stand next to the luggage x-ray, however. You’ll actually see a warning not to put body parts in the scanner because of the radiation. And unfortunately they don’t offer any mitigation strategies where the bags enter. X-rays absolutely “leak” out of the entrance. To what level? Hard to say. I’d stand away from them.

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