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Airport Security Scanners: Due to Privacy Concerns, They Will Be Eliminated Next Month

Travelers Today       By    Karen Fredrickson

Updated: May 07, 2013 10:14 AM EDT

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The current full body X-ray machines won't be part of the airport security process for much longer, with airports planning to eliminate them by next month even though they have passed all safety requirements, according to USA Today.

Airports have chosen to eliminate them and cancel their contract with Rapiscan Systems due to issues of privacy. The company was unable to meet a deadline to develop software that would convert the nude-like images produced by the machines into stick figures. Millimeter scanners, which don't use X-rays, though still operate as full-body scanners, will remain a part of airport security, however. 

The scanners underwent more than 700 inspections last year and passed all the radiation tests, according to records. They showed radiation levels below the standards used by their manufacturer and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), according to recently released reports.

The TSA and the maker of the scanner, Rapiscan Systems, say that the reports offer additional proof of safety, though many critics still remain unconvinced and the TSA has already made the decision to remove the scanners, regardless.

"We're very pleased with the results of the latest batch of inspection reports," Peter Kant, the executive vice president of Rapiscan said. "It's yet another set of test results that show the systems are operating exactly as we said they would, that they are well below safety limits."

The TSA didn't respond to any interview requests, though they released a statement.

"All scientific testing on this technology thus far has proven to be well within nationally recognized standards and safe for all passengers."

Passengers on a flight from New York to Los Angeles are exposed to about 4,000 microrem of cosmic radiation and a chest X-ray can deliver 10,000 microrem, according to the Health Physics Society. The full body scanner delivers less than five microrem of radiation per scanning. The accepted measurement for safety standards is five microrem.

Critics still question adding another type of scanner that uses radiation when alternatives that don't are available, such as those used in the European Union (EU), where the X-ray scan has been banned.

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