The full-body scanners being rolled out at security checkpoints in U.S. airports are either of the millimeter-wave type, which uses radio frequency waves, or the backscatter X-ray type, which uses ionizing radiation — and which has effectively been banned from use in European airports.
Yesterday, the EU announced new rules for the use of full-body scanners in its member countries. And while there is much discussion of the new limits imposed on the millimeter-wave scanners, the statement ends with the following:
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.
Since they began showing up in airports a few years back, backscatter scanners have been the subject of heated debate, with the TSA and other supporters saying that the amount of radiation used in the scan is minimal and harmless, while others say that the radiation hasn’t been accurately measured or that there are concerns about what would happen if one of these scanners malfunctioned.
While travelers to Europe who are worried about X-ray scanners can now breathe a bit easier — the EU has allowed airports in the UK to continue testing them, though they may not be put in place once the tests are completed — American airports will still have them.
Europe Bans X-Ray Body Scanners Used at U.S. Airports [Propublica.org]