The European Union is taking a different path from the U.S. when it comes to airport security. The EU, which has 27 member nations, has now adopted a rule to ban the use of X-ray body scanners to screen for explosives at airports.
Health Concerns about Airport Security X-Ray Machines
For the EU, it was a matter of “health and safety.”
The now-banned-in-Europe machines first came to public attention because of the graphic images they produced (albeit with blurred faces), plus there were fears these images could be misused or even wind up on the internet. Later, health concerns came to the fore.
While the X-ray machines use a very minute amount of radiation, there are raging arguments over whether even that small amount is too much. As the public interest journalism site ProPublica reports, “Although the amount of radiation is extremely low, equivalent to the radiation a person would receive in a few minutes of flying, several research studies have concluded that a small number of cancer cases would result from scanning hundreds of millions of passengers a year.”
TSA Says X-Ray Machines are Safe
For its part, the TSA has long said their X-ray machines, which utilize Backscatter Imaging Technology, are safe and the TSA Blog cites numerous statements with links in support of that contention.
It should also be noted that the TSA deploys both X-ray scanners and the millimeter-wave scanner machines which utilize radio waves – and that the latter have not been linked to any health scares.
An update on the X-ray machines: The TSA’s chief blogger notes that “TSA Administrator John Pistole told Congress last week that we’re going to have another independent safety study on our Backscatter imaging technology.” In the meantime, the debate continues.