Europe avoids use of x-ray body scanners

Added by on November 16, 2011

A sign explains how backscatter scanners work, and what security personnel may be able to see when reviewing a scan

The European Commission announced in a press release on Wednesday that it will only allow the use of airport security scanners that do not use X-ray technology in order “not to risk jeopardising citizen’s health and safety”.

The Eurpoean Commission’s move is in contrast to the USA’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which has deployed hundreds of x-ray body scanners that use ionizing radiation, a form of energy that has been shown to damage DNA and cause cancer. Several studies have revealed that, although the dose of radiation passengers receive from a single scan is very low, equivalent to the amount of radiation a person receives after a few minutes of flying, a small number of cases would arise as a result of scanning hundreds of millions of passengers each year.

Vice-President Siim Kallas, Commissioner responsible for transport, said: “Security scanners are not a panacea but they do offer a real possibility to reinforce passenger security. Security scanners are a valuable alternative to existing screening methods and are very efficient in detecting both metallic and non-metallic objects. It is still for each Member State or airport to decide whether or not to deploy security scanners, but these new rules ensure that where this new technology is used it will be covered by EU wide standards on detection capability as well as strict safeguards to protect health and fundamental rights. Experience to date shows that passengers and staff generally see security scanners as a convenient method of screening.”

In a statement not specifically about the European Commission’s announcement, the US TSA said, “As one of our many layers of security, TSA deploys the most advanced technology available to provide the best opportunity to detect dangerous items, such as explosives.

“We rigorously test our technology to ensure it meets our high detection and safety standards before it is placed in airports. Since January 2010, advanced imaging technology has detected more than 300 dangerous or illegal items on passengers in U.S. airports nationwide.”

The US TSA plans to deploy about 1,300 more scanners within about three years, the scanners will be evenly divided between the x-ray backscatter and radio millimeter-wave scanners.