The uproar over full body scanners in airports may have simmered in the US, but some officials in the EU are all up in arms over the implications of the use of this hardware.
And it’s not about privacy this time.
Dr. David Brenner, an American scientist, claims that these scanners – now used in most major airports in the US – can deliver up to 20 times more radiation to the skin than previously believed. This means the chance of developing skin cancer is increased dramatically.
Due to Brenner’s suggestions about the potential harm of these instruments, the EU has halted the use of these scanners in Europe’s airports. The US and UK, however, disregard Brenner’s statements and instead side with those scientists who believe the scanners are safe for travelers to go through up to 5,000 times a year.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport says that the dose of radiation a person is exposed to during one scan is equivalent to less than two minutes of flying at altitude.
But Dr. Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in an article last year in Discover Magazine:
“They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays.”
And it sounds like there is an alternative. A millimeter-wave scanner, already used in some airports, doesn’t use X-rays. Instead, they hit the body with radio waves, which are considered much safer. As far as several experts are concerned, these scanners detect just as much as the X-ray scanners.
Still, UK officials are standing behind the X-ray scanners, and believe that the EU Commission will determine the instruments to be safe by early 2012.