A woman going through security at Los Angeles International Airport put her month-old grandson into a plastic bin intended for carry-on items and slid it into an X-ray machine.Baby Fernando woke up the next day to discover that he had acquired mysterious powers . . .
The early Saturday accident — bizarre but not unprecedented — caught airport workers by surprise, even though the security line was not busy at the time, officials said.
A screener watching the machine's monitor immediately noticed the outline of a baby and pulled the bin backward on the conveyor belt.
The infant was taken to Centinela Hospital, where doctors determined that he had not received a dangerous dose of radiation.
Officials, who declined to release the 56-year-old woman's name, said she spoke Spanish and apparently did not understand English.
She initially didn't want the baby transported to a hospital, but security officials called paramedics and insisted that the child be examined by a doctor.
The grandmother and the child were subsequently allowed to board an Alaska Airlines flight to Mexico City.
The rare incident drew attention to whether officials are staffing often-busy security checkpoints enough to prevent such an accident. And it raised questions about the danger of X-rays used to pick out suspicious metal shapes in passenger bags, given the medical community's warnings that even low amounts of radiation can build up over a lifetime.
"Rather than focus on the radiation dose, which is a small amount, we need to focus on why this happened, so it doesn't happen again," said Dr. James Borgstede, a diagnostic radiologist at Penrose-St. Francis Health Systems in Colorado Springs, Colo., and president of the American College of Radiology. "Human beings weren't meant to go through those things."
In the several seconds the baby spent in the machine, the doctor added, he was exposed to as much radiation as he would naturally get from cosmic rays — or high energy from outer space — in a day.
Security experts said the incident underscored a more widespread concern about the screening process at LAX and other airports.
"The screeners are still reporting that they're being pushed," said Brian Sullivan, a retired Federal Aviation Administration security agent. "If a baby can get through, what the hell else can get through?" [...]
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Does airport security serve any function at all? I guess it does, but still I wonder sometimes: