EU Bans Airport X-Ray Scanners Over Health Concerns

Airport X-ray scanner image.Credit: <a href="http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/how_it_works.shtm">TSA</a>.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Citing health concerns, the European Union banned from European airports this week the same kind of X-ray scanners used by TSA in airports across the US. Here’s the EU’s wording:

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.

In How Safe Are TSA’s Porno Scanners? I wrote about the risks of using ionizing radiation in routine airport screenings. Concerned scientists have noted the health risks of X-ray scanners, where even low levels of radiation increase cancer risks. They also note that TSA’s safety testing is flawed, since:

  1. testing is not done on the skin, which receives most backscatter X-rays
  2. the devices used for testing airport scanners are not designed for testing airport scanners

Worse, as Pro Publica points out, TSA’s safety tests are strangely obtuse:

The researchers’ names have been kept secret, and the report on the tests is so “heavily redacted” that “there is no way to repeat any of these measurements.”

European airports can still use alternative body scanners, including millimeter-wave scanners that use radio frequency waves not linked to cancer.

Some 500 body scanners are in use in the US, reports Pro Publica. About half are backscatter X-ray scanners, which look like a pair of large blue boxes. The other half are millimeter-wave scanners, which look like a round glass booth. The X-ray scanners are in use at major airports including Los Angeles International, New York’s JFK, and Chicago’s O’Hare. Millimeter-wave scanners are in use at San Francisco, Atlanta, and Dallas.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest