Well Being

Full-body Scanners Safe

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While the debate continues about whether full-body scanners at airports protect privacy, experts from American College of Radiology (ACR) say that the devices are safe.

The full-body scanners that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wants to use at security checkpoints in US airports produce anatomically accurate images, allowing the ability to detect items concealed by clothing. Two different types of scanning systems have been used. One is millimeter wave technology which uses low-level radio waves similar to a cell phone, and the other is backscatter technology that utilizes weak X-rays which deliver the radiation equivalent you would receive inside an aircraft flying for two minutes at 30,000 feet. The backscatter radiation is so weak that it doesn’t penetrate the skin or show internal organs.

Full body Scanners Safe airport full body scanner jpg

According to ACR, a cross-country airline passenger is exposed to more radiation during the flight than from either of the full-body scanning systems. The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement (NCRP) has said you’d need to have 2,500 backscatter scans a year to have what they classify as a Negligible Individual Dose. If you’re still concerned about radiation, TSA would give you the option of a pat-down instead of the scan.

Even if the radiation dose you’d receive from a full-body scan is safe, is your privacy protected? TSA has said that the images are deleted from the system after the operator views them in a separate room. The person viewing the images can’t see the actual person being scanned, and no other devices like cameras are allowed in the room with the operator. However, CNN has reported that a privacy group is raising concerns that TSA isn’t being forthcoming about the machine’s ability to store images.

According to a Gallup poll earlier this month, only 20% of Americans disapprove of full-body scans at airports. How do you feel about the use of full-body scanners at airports? Do you think other measures that would better protect privacy without radiation exposure should be used?

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