According to this article on the Time website, a few weeks ago the European Commission proposed to ban the so-called 'backscatter' X-ray machines. These scanners emit radiation and are seen as a risk to the health and safety of citizens through the EU's 27 member nations.
So what’s happening in the US? Well, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has gone and rolled out roughly 250 backscatter X-ray machines across the US. The TSA still maintain that these X-ray machines are safe and that any increase in cancer risk is negligible.
However, many scientists disagree...and so do we. These previous blog entries outline our opinions about this issue of airport scanners and radiation exposure.
To put things into perspective, although the risk of an individual developing cancer from scanner radiation is relatively low...the accrued risks over time by the millions of Americans who regularly fly every year most certainly puts these machines into a potential danger-zone that the public are exposed to at airports throughout the country.
Frequent fliers and pilots alike seem to be against the scanners. In fact, the pilots’ unions publicly recommend that passengers opt of the pat-down security check as opposed to the X-ray machine. With recent news reports of some passengers reporting personal violations of their rights and other legal headaches for courts countrywide after these pat-downs, it seems that when it comes to national security, flight risks, health risks and passenger opinions...you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
Considering the majority of professional and decent TSA officials out there, getting a quick pat-down may be the lesser of the two ‘evils’ when heading through airport security. At least you and your fellow passengers can see what’s happening...unlike the potentially dangerous X-ray radiation that passes through your body every time you’re subjected to these backscatter scanners.
While this controversial topic gets bounced around the bureaucratic tennis courts of America’s political and legal sectors, passengers are still no better off and are still subjected to the risk of radiation exposure every time they fly.
You may not be able to choose your preferred method of travel but you can certainly choose which form of security check you’re entitled to. I understand that none of them are ideal and tick all the boxes, but in the great scheme of things, avoiding an X-ray scanner and its potential risks should be at the top of your agenda whenever you travel.