Border Patrol Union: Agents Working Checkpoint X-Ray Scanners Develop Cancer

June 14, 2017

The union for the United States Border Patrol said several federal agents using X-ray scanners at checkpoints have now developed thyroid cancer.

According to the union, as of this week, at least nine Border Patrol agents working in the agency’s El Paso Sector confirmed they developed one of two types of thyroid cancer.

The agency’s union said all those agents were primarily tasked with operating a type of X-ray machine at Border Patrol checkpoints, specifically using backscatter technology. In addition, they also operate VACIS systems, for Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System, which use gamma-transmission technology.

It’s used by agents to check for false compartments and smuggling loads tucked into otherwise normal looking vehicles. The machines are used at federal checkpoints like those in Texas and at at least some of the Tucson Sector's 11 checkpoints.

"Everything is leading towards these agents having been the ones who were working with some of these x-ray machines at the checkpoints," said Art del Cueto, a national union vice-president.

In 2012, the non-profit news organization Pro Publica found that most federal regulations for medical X-ray equipment didn't apply to law enforcement equipment and the devices have increased in use in United States law enforcement.

The national union and its local branches are asking agents who work at checkpoints to get themselves screened.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials declined requests for an interview and said they are quote “looking into the issue.”

EDITOR'S NOTE:  This story has been modified to correct the type of technology used at Border Patrol checkpoints.