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Whether it’s called a Body Scanner, an Airport Scanner, a Whole Body Imager (WBI), or a Security Scanner, all travelers have either heard the controversy over these machines or have experienced first-hand the security protocol that is becoming more and more popular in airports across the world.

How Do The Airport Scanners Work?

Airport body scanners

The airport scanners use waves to create an image. The waves that bounce off the body could reveal if someone is carrying things under their clothing. These images are not stored.

What the Body Scanner Sees?

There are two types of body scanners: the millimeter wave scanner and the backscatter X-ray. The millimeter wave scanner uses high frequency radio waves to make an image of the body which shows objects hidden under clothes. The backscatter X-ray scanners detect the radiation that reflects from the human body.

Millimeter wave scanner
Millimeter wave scanner image example
Backscatter x-ray scanner
Backscatter x-ray scanner image example

The Controversy about Body Scanners

Scanners are being used as TSA screening routine instead of when there is probable cause to search a passenger.

The long-term health effects of being exposed to active, transmission waves are unknown. However, recent reports continue to stress the safety of the scanners. One study states that the radiation from one scan is equivalent to the natural background emission a passenger receives during ten minutes on a flight.

Where Are The Body Scanners?

Currently, the country with the most body scanners is the United States. Although, the recent order by the Department for Transport demanding body scanners for all passengers traveling to the US could cause the scanners to start popping up across the Europe.

Over the past three years, the Manchester Airport has been using the backscatter scanner, but has decided to abandon the practice due to privacy invasion and the controversy over health risks.

Recently, Scotland’s Glasgow and Edinburgh airports have installed full body scanners which will be used on randomly selected passengers.

Scanners can also be found in the following airports: Amsterdam-Schipol, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly, Rome-Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino, and Venice Marco Polo.

Opting Out of the Airport Scanners

In the United States, the law is that you can opt out of the scan and be subject to the touching search instead. In contrast, the UK Department for Transport has decided that any passenger refusing to pass through the body scanner will not fly.

Do you know anything else about the body scanners of the TSA screening? Let us know! 

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