Have you been a victim of full-body scanners at the airport too? Was your body exposed to harmful radiations too? And if you are not aware of what I am talking about, you will be, after you finish reading this article. Keep reading, we are about to reveal the truth of full-body scanners.
What Are Full-Body Scanners?
A full-body scanner is a device that is used at the airport securities or hotel check-ins for screening purposes. No, you don’t need to remove your clothes, scanners pass radiations that at certain wavelengths allow electromagnetic waves to elapse through clothes. This helps to detect prohibited items such as weapons, explosives, knives etc. if any of them are under your clothes.
The full-body security scanner was first developed by Dr Steven W Smith in 1992. Later he sold the device to Rapiscan systems which is an American company that specialises in making walk-through metal detectors and x-ray machines for airports. Lockheed Martin developed the first non-radiating full-body screening device. The National Institute of Justice Office of Science and Technology and the United States Air Force Research Laboratory sponsored Lockheed Martin Corporation. Proof of concept was conducted through DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) in 1995.
Radiations Used In Security Screening At Airports
There are different types of radiations used at airports for different purposes.
There are two types of full-body scanners that are currently used
- Backscatter Scanners
- Millimeter Wave Scanners
Backscatter Scanners send x-rays towards the person who is being scanned. These are low-energy x-rays and their wavelength is not enough to pass through the skin so it bounces back. They are used to create an image of the person and the items under their clothing if any.
On the other hand, Millimeter Wave Scanners also work in the same way. The only difference is that instead of x-rays, radio frequency waves are used. These radio frequency waves are also of low intensity and non-ionising.
X-rays scanners are used for scanning luggage. Carry-on luggage passes through the x-ray and creates a picture of what is inside the bags. It is different from the full-body scanning as the filters present in the system allows to view different objects in different colours. An extremely high-speed photographic film inside the luggage can get exposed to the x-rays and can turn radioactive.
Metal detectors generate a low-strength magnetic field. When the field passes through or close to a metallic surface, the magnetic field changes and hence gets detected by the sensors of a metal detector.
Health Hazards Because Of Full-Body Detectors
This is not an unusual fact that the full-body scanners are not good for your health. What needs to be understood is how bad can it get?
Health Hazards by X-rays scanners
X-rays contain photons with high energy. The energy in these photons is enough to ionise atoms which leads to breakage of their chemical bonds. This can be dangerous for your health. Enough of this energy can cause tissue damage and mutations and can even cause cancer.
A group of scientists at the University Of California researched and concluded that the x-rays are bounced off the skin and do not pass through the skin…
Wait… isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?
If it’s true then the dose of x-rays received by the skin is higher than expected because it is concentrated on the skin and is not spread throughout the body.
Health Hazards by Millimeter Wave Scanners
Theoretically, Millimeter wave scanners are safer than x-rays because its photons do not possess enough energies to break the chemical bonds.
But in 2009, researchers from Los Alamos National Labor in New Mexico suggested that even though the energy is not enough to break the chemical bond but can shake the DNA strands. This shaking can be strong enough to unzip the DNA strands. This can lead to damaging the genes that keep the cells working.
There is a possibility that the risk factor is low but the other possibility clearly says that the energy from the scanners can interact with the large molecules inside an individuals body that can have a potentially measurable effect.
Why Do Hotels Have X-rays Scanners Of Luggage?
X-ray scanners in hotels are found mainly in Africa, India and the middle east. These x-rays scanners are mostly as old as the hotel property is. But the reality is that the lifespan of an x-ray scanner is not more than 5-6 years. That too if it is serviced by a radiation technician on a frequent basis.
“It has a risk factor for the people around it also!”
Underneath the scanners are radioactive materials that cannot be good for the people surrounding the equipment. And even if you keep the scanners outside the hotel lobby, you need to make sure that the scanners are suitable for high temperatures and high humidity. And under these circumstances, if the maintenance is not proper, the chances of getting exposed to nuclear radiations arise.
“There is a commercial aspect for using the x-rays beyond its lifespan capacity”
The cost factor is the main reason that technology is used out of date or beyond its lifespan. Hotel operators use second hand or cheap technology that doesn’t last long and also increases the health risk.
Smith detection is a leading supplier of scanners. They have demonstrated through a video how hotels can use their technologies without compromising with the customer service.
Maybe if this technology is available at an affordable price and is suitable for the environment, we don’t mind opting for the scans but if hotels know the health hazards it can cause, they should either maintain it properly or not keep it in the hotel premises at all.
There is nothing probably that you can do about the body scanners. You can opt for not getting scanned, if you are pregnant or if there is an infant with you.
The question arises, “Is it important for the hotel chains to keep x-ray scanners?”