Europe Bans Airport Body Scanners For “Health and Safety” Concerns

The European Union issued a ruling this week that bans X-ray body scanners in all European airports. According to the European Commission, the agency charged with enforcing the ruling across the EU’s 27 member nations, the prohibition is necessary “in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.”

TAP – Once you read the text, I’m not sure it says exactly that, but it’s worth reading the bulletin to be sure of the legal approach being taken by airports if you wish to ask for an opt-out.  They can challenge you by asking you why you are requesting an opt-out.  If your answer is not carefully thought through, the reason you give may not be sufficient to allow you an opt-out.  I add a suggestion at the end.

X-ray body scanners, which use “backscatter” ionized radiation technology, emit enough radiation to theoretically damage DNA and cause cancer.  While the level of radiation is extremely low, some studies have found that over time a small number of cancer cases could result from scanning millions of people a year.  Statistically the incidence is minuscule, but it’s a possibility nonetheless.

Instead of X-ray scanners, European airports will use millimeter-wave scanners that utilize low-energy radio waves. So far, no credible studies have linked radio wave exposure to cancer.

In the U.S., the TSA uses both types of scanners: 250 X-ray scanners and 264 millimeter wave scanners.  Controversy surrounding use of the scanners has focused mainly on privacy concerns, and it would seem that the potential health risks of the technology have been largely downplayed in the interest of security.

In response to the EU ruling, the TSA offered a different flavor of statistics showing that since January 2010, more than 300 dangerous or illegal items have been found on passengers as a direct result of using X-ray body scanners.

Earlier this month, a PBS Newshour/ProPublica report accused various agencies within the U.S. government of glossing over cancer risks when the scanners were rolled out.  According to the report, radiation experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration started raising concerns over use of the technology in 1998 when only 20 machines were in operation throughout the entire country.  Quoting from the report:

One after another, the experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration raised questions about the machine because it violated a longstanding principle in radiation safety — that humans shouldn’t be X-rayed unless there is a medical benefit.

But, of course, that was before 9/11.  Deployment of scanners increased radically after the attacks, and full-body versions were installed en masse after the failed underwear bombing in 2009.

The FDA took issue with the ProPublica report and responded  last week with a letter claiming that the cancer risk from X-ray scanners is roughly 1 in 400 million, in stark contrast to ProPublica’s assertion that research suggests anywhere from six to 100 Americans a year could develop cancer from use of the machines.

The TSA plans to deploy 1,275 backscatter and millimeter-wave scanners covering more than half its security lanes by the end of 2012 and 1,800 covering nearly all the lanes by 2014.

David DiSalvo is the author of “Brain Changer: How Harnessing Your Brain’s Power to Adapt Can Change Your Life” and the best-selling “What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why…

Here is the EU Press Release.  I’m not sure it says what the post claims but it is still worth studying if this topic concerns you.

Aviation security: Commission adopts new rules on the use of security scanners at European airports

Brussels, 14 November 2011 -The European Commission has adopted today a proposal for an European Union legal framework on security scanners. This legislation allows airports and Member States that wish to use security scanners for the screening of passengers to do so under strict operational and technical conditions.

Member States have been trialling or testing security scanners1, since a terrorist attempted on 25 December 2009 to blow up a plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit with plastic explosives he had hidden in his underwear. Until now the use of security scanners has been done under a patchwork of different national operational procedures and standards and in a limited way. As a common EU-wide framework, the new legislation legally allows Member States and airports to replace current security systems with security scanners. It also ensures the uniform application of security rules at all airports and provides strict and mandatory safeguards to ensure compliance with fundamental rights and the protection of health.

Member States and airports do not have an obligation to deploy security scanners, but if they decide to use them, they will have to comply with the operational conditions and performance standards set at European level.

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.”

Security scanners are an effective method of screening passengers as they are capable of detecting both metallic and non-metallic items carried on a person. The scanner technology is developing rapidly and has the potential to significantly reduce the need for manual searches (“pat-downs”) applied to passengers, crews and airport staff.

Under the new EU legislation the use of security scanners is only allowed in accordance with minimum conditions such as for example that: security scanners shall not store, retain, copy, print or retrieve images; any unauthorised access and use of the image is prohibited and shall be prevented; the human reviewer analysing the image shall be in a separate location and the image shall not be linked to the screened person and others. Passengers must be informed about conditions under which the security scanner control takes place.

In addition, passengers are given the right to opt out from a control with scanners and be subject to an alternative method of screening.

By laying down specific operational conditions and by providing passengers with the possibility of opting out, the legislation safeguards fundamental rights and the principles recognised in particular by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

In order not to risk jeopardising citizens’ health and safety, only security scanners which do not use X-ray technology are added to the list of authorised methods for passenger screening at EU airports.

All other technologies, such as that used for mobiles phones and others, can be used provided that they comply with EU security standards.

TAP – This suggests that microwaves are being used which are known to be carcinogenic.  You can opt out but be prepared to stay your reason in a way that conforms with the EU’s requirements that you are wishing to apply the principles of The Charter Of Fundamental Rights.  You might be lucky enough to get a letter from a doctor specifying that you are electro hyper-sensitive.  Electrical charge is clearly being added to your person by the scanners.


3 Responses to “Europe Bans Airport Body Scanners For “Health and Safety” Concerns”

  1. Protestant says:

    You have the choice of being blasted with radiation and having your naked scan laughed at by TSA pervs, or you can be sexually assaulted by them in a modified strip search called a “pat-down”.

    “Passengers at several of the busiest airports in the United States complained that they felt “shocked,” “violated,” and “humiliated” by pat downs performed by Transportation Security Administration screeners, documents obtained by the watchdog group Judicial Watch show.

    “Judicial Watch obtained 58 pages of passenger complaints from 2013 that reveal numerous allegations of TSA personnel sexually assaulting passengers at Dulles International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Miami International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport.”

  2. Tapestry says:

    I found pat downs OK at Schipol and Birmingham. They were worried I might take my shorts off and told me not to strip! They interviewed me at length trying to find out my reasons for refusing the scan but I kept my thoughts to myself. They seems to want a debate about the technicalities of the device. I had a piece of paper from my doctor explaining that I am electro hyper sensitive which confused them. It’s a battle of wits.
    merely citing ‘human rights’

  3. Protestant says:

    Yes, it’s nothing to do with “terrorism”, it’s “Obedience Training for the Masses”. They have no right to scan or touch ANYONE without reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed.

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