Can Airport Scanners See Inside Your Body Cavities?

credit: Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest

An airport scanner is the interest of many curious minds when going through airport security before embarking on a flight to an awaiting destination of new experiences. Before heading off to the airplane, a person’s pondered question needs an answer; can airport scanners see inside a body or body cavities?

The newer, typical airport body scanner does not see inside a body or its cavities because the electromagnetic waves that emit from the machine reflect off the skin. A full scan gets conducted like an X-ray if a backscatter scanner is used, which can see body cavities and everything else inside the body but is not standard.

Are Backscatter Airport Scanners Still Used?

All the backscatter body scanners got removed from United States airports in 2013, says CNN, but since then, The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that it remains used. When these airport scanners get utilized, the machine operator remains in a separate room, never interacting with the scanned person.

Could An Airport Scanner See Inside Your Body/Cavities Before New Technology?

All older airport body scanners could do a full body scan of cavities and everything in between, but this imposed human privacy rights and even raised health concerns. Earlier airport scanners used backscatter technology, which is essentially a typical X-Ray, but these scanners got updated with millimeter wave technology.

Do Airport Scanners Raise Any Health Concerns?

At face value, any technology that can penetrate clothes or function as X-Rays seems like it can cause health problems. The EPA specified that backscatter machines emit the same amount of radiation as two minutes on a flight, and millimeter wave scanners are on the same level as a cellphone.

How Do Backscatter Airport Scanners Work?

Airport backscatter body scanners project radiation like a standard X-ray, which mirrors the body’s radiation onto a screen, revealing anything on or inside the body and its cavities. Although there is a health concern, the risks are minimal as the scanner’s radiation energy is reflected rather than absorbed.

How Do Millimeter Wave Scanners Work?

Millimeter wave scanners are the more commonly used and cast microwave-like radiation, called non-ionizing radiation, towards the body. These scanners cannot see internally, and the body scan is only a generic image. The energy reflected on a distant computer screen outlines a three-dimensional picture and highlights anything suspicious.

What Type Of Scan Gets Used On Luggage At The Airport?

Luggage gets scanned by Cabinet X-Ray systems where reflected energy creates a picture showing the position of items, what they are composed of, and their volume as it passes through the lead curtains. A Cabinet X-Ray system is enclosed to prevent radiation from escaping, which protects people from harm. What Happens If An Airport Scanner Detects Something Illegal?

Can You Hide Things From An Airport Scanner?

Typical body scanners and cabinet X-ray systems don’t commonly detect authentic materials but can hint at substances by showing different colors. Researchers also discovered that Teflon tape could hide things from backscatter scanners. It is sometimes possible to conceal something within clothing if it blends with the scanned image.

What Does An Airport Scanner Detect?

Metal detectors pick up any electromagnetic current, even minor items like hair clips, belts, and jewelry. Luggage scanners use X-rays that show dense objects, like metal, in dark colors and things like food in light colors. Backscatter and millimeter scanners detect scattered light intensity, depending on the material.

What Are The Rights To Being Scanned At An Airport?

People have Fourth Amendment rights during airport screening, which protect them from unwarranted searches and confiscation.  People have the freedom to decline a full-body scanner and instead be privately searched by a person of their gender. The TSA can only execute ‘administrative searches’ as they are not law enforcement officers.

Do Babies Go Through An Airport Scanner?

A baby must undergo airport screening regardless of age, and scanners are safe for a baby. While scanned, they don’t need to be removed from a sling, but may not stay in strollers and carriers. The TSA might conduct further pat-down screening, especially if the detector alarm goes off. 

Can I Get Through Airport Security Without Being Scanned?

Not every person goes through a full-body scan at the airport, but everyone will undergo metal detector and luggage scans. Full scans are randomized, usually if the person is close to a scanner or looks suspicious. A person can avoid full-body scanners by asking for a pat-down instead.

Can Your Carry-On Luggage Transmit Radiation From An Airport Scanner?

Cabinet scanner X-rays only produce while the luggage passes through the scanner. There are no known harmful effects from utilizing scanned objects. The general radiation dose from a cabinet x-ray system is one milliard or less compared to natural radiation in the air, which amounts to 360 millirad per year.

What Type Of Airport Scanners Are Used In Canada?

Canada only uses millimeter-wave scanners, which do not use x-rays and pose no threat to human health or welfare. You may opt for a physical search instead of using the scanner, and there are no privacy concerns as the scanner only shows a generic body image and highlights problem areas.

What Type Of Airport Scanners Are Used In The UK?

Interestingly, the leading UK airports will have new 3D luggage scanners by December 1, 2022. UK full body scanners may only use millimeter wave technology employing Automatic Threat Recognition (ATR) software. Security may not conduct scans without ATR software, as ATR blurs a person’s identity to maintain privacy.

What Type Of Airport Scanners Are Used In Europe?

The European body scanners are the primary or secondary screening method after setting the alarm off. Scanners do not use ionizing radiation and blur the image to conceal a person’s identity. A person has the possibility of replacing a body scan with a body search.

What Type Of Airport Scanners Are Used In Australia?

Full-body scans are conducted randomly in Australia, but for the chosen person, it is compulsory, or they will not be permitted to pass airport security to board their flight. All Australian body scanners incorporate non-ionizing millimeter-wave technology. The developed scan is cartoon-like and points out problem areas with boxes.

What Can’t You Bring Through The TSA?

There is a list of 474 objects that may not pass through, either in a person’s hand luggage, suitcase, or both! Most gasses are not allowed on an airplane, nor any weaponry or items that replicate weapons. Self-defense items like bear spray and pepper spray are also prohibited.

What Is TSA Precheck?

A TSA Precheck is a unique mark on a boarding pass that eases your security checks if you are a low-risk US traveler. A person with Precheck can bypass specific steps during airport security scanning to speed along the process, and it is worthwhile for someone who travels often.

What Happens If You Get Caught With Something Illegal At An Airport?

Prohibited items get confiscated, and some might incur an additional fine or even lead to arrest. The TSA can fine up to $13,910 per breach and person, depending on the illegality level. Every state contains laws, so a person must research to ensure that the items in possession are legal.