Most women would like to keep their breast implants confidential, so the thought that these could be revealed to strangers in an airport may be enough to keep them from flying – but can airport scanners see breast implants?
Modern airport scanners cannot detect breast implants and any other prosthetic or medical device in the human body. X-Ray scanners can see them as well as pacemakers, artificial limbs and shunts, metal hip, shoulder, and knee joints, chin and cheek implants, and testicular prosthetics!
Which Type Of Airport Scanners Detect Breast Implants?
Airport scanners are designed to see through humans to detect metallic or other non-biological materials that could cause safety concerns for the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).
With the rise of terrorism over the past decade, these machines have been improved to detect any objects that could pose a potential security risk. Still, they are focused on seeing suspicious things in the human body.
While older systems are designed to detect metallic objects like knives, guns, bullets, and explosive devices, the advancement of weapons and explosives that aren’t made of metal has led to the development of scanners that detect anything odd between the skin and the scanner.
There are different types of scanners, and not all can detect breast implants. X-Ray scanners can detect implants and other objects embedded in the body. Still, the older body scanners you see at airports cannot, as they can’t detect non-metallic devices, while the new AIT scanners can also not detect breast implants.
What Types Of Scanners Are Used At Airports?
When airport scanners first emerged, they were mostly metal detectors. Most dangerous objects were made from steel and could be detected by hand-held scanners or the full body scanner, and ceramic and non-metallic weapons had not been devised yet.
Because silicone breast implants do not contain metal, they would not be identified with this scanner but could be seen with an X-ray scanner.
TSA officials initially used X-ray scanners to scan luggage, and they still do. Luggage passing through the scanner is X-rayed, and suspicious objects found in luggage will require further examination. X-rays could see breast implants, but they should not trigger any response.
As terrorists began experimenting with more creative methods to build and disguise weapons and explosives in non-metallic materials, the TSA decided to utilize X-ray technology to improve security measures. A new generation of scanners was born.
Can Backscatter X-Ray Scanners See Breast Implants?
These devices use backscatter X-rays, fast-moving, low radiation dosage X-ray that scans the body to check for any unusual objects hidden under the clothing. This type of scanner would not be able to see breast implants as they don’t penetrate the skin.
Early models of this scanner did show naked images of people as they passed through the scanner, but this was because they did not come out with any privacy protection, but this has since been remedied, and all of those machines were removed in 2013.
The image of these scans is an outline of the human body, much like the cutout of a gingerbread man, and only shows a silhouette of the body with any suspicious objects appearing on the scan. Otherwise, the person will appear as a blank white silhouette.
The backscatter scanners of today can only detect objects on the skin and under the clothes, so these units would not be able to see through the skin and into the body, and they cannot ‘see’ nipples or genitalia.
Can Advanced Imaging Technology Scanners See Breast Implants?
Advanced Imaging Technology scanners are used to detect objects that may be hidden on the body but cannot penetrate the body cavity or display naked images to the TSA operator.
The Millimeter wave scanner uses high-frequency radio waves to create an outline of the body and can detect objects hidden away under clothes. These scanners cannot see into the body or under the skin and cannot see breast implants.
According to TSA spokesman Carter Langton, these AIT scanners detect metallic and non-metallic objects in milliseconds. The image is reflected on an operator screen and will show green if all is clear and red if any unusual object is detected.
These scanners would also detect any object hidden inside the body, so someone looking to hide drugs inside their body could conceivably pass through a scanner without any alarm being raised – so concerns around breast prosthetics and tampons being seen by this machine are unwarranted.
Of all the airport scanners in place, only the X-ray scanner would be able to see breast implants and any other intra-body devices.
Can Airport Scanners Damage Breast Implants?
Aside from the exposure of breast implants that may cause some embarrassment, some people were concerned about the effect that millimeter scanners and backscatter machines could have on breast implants.
Tests conducted on both machines demonstrated only very low doses of radiation from the backscatter scanner, and these doses were lower than the radiation emitted from a cellphone.
The high-frequency radio waves used in the AIT scanners are not radiation but are microwaves at very low intensity, and they cannot damage or adversely affect breast implants.
Should You Declare Breast Implants To TSA Officials?
As a rule, you don’t have to declare prosthetics to TSA officials. If a machine does trigger an alarm, you can simply advise the Transport Security Officer that you have a breast implant. Still, since modern body scanners don’t see under the skin, it’s unlikely you would experience this situation.
Breast implants are a very common procedure, and unless you have personal reasons for not wanting anyone to know, you could advise the TSO before proceeding through the scanner that you have them. You can also opt not to go through the scanner and have a personal ‘pat down’ done instead.
There you could declare or not declare breast implants and the TSO have directives and guidelines as to how these personal searches must be conducted to preserve the rights and privacy of travelers.
The TSA website does advise travelers to declare medical implants as this will allow you to reduce any risk of delays when passing through airport security. Still, there is no law or rule in place that makes it compulsory to declare breast implants or any other prosthetic.
If you have an implant that you are sensitive about, mention this to a TSO before going through the security check and ask them to assist you discreetly, which they are happy to do.
Fortunately, the TSA has recognized and understood that not everyone is open about their prosthetics and has mandated policies to ensure their rights to privacy are respected and upheld.
It would help if you also remembered that these scanners and the TSA protect you and other passengers from harm, and they have no interest in seeing any of your ‘private’ areas. For the most part, scans are benign on most passengers passing the security checks.
The reality is that without such measures, the risk of terrorist incidents on planes would be far higher, and the consequence would be more severe than acknowledging that you have had some enhancements done.