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X-Ray Body Scanners Banned From European Airports, Still Used in United States

Travelers Today       By    Katie McFadden

Updated: Sep 18, 2012 11:40 AM EDT

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Full body X-ray scans may save travelers the trouble of being frisked, but the European Union has decided to ban the machines due to safety concerns.

The controversial machines show a complete image of a person's body, but their purpose is to reveal hidden explosives and weapons at security checkpoints. Experts' biggest fear is that these machines may emit high levels of cancer-causing radiation.

The European Commission blocked new trials for the device due to safety concerns, but Manchester Airport was allowed to continue to use the $130,000 machines for another year as part of a trial.

Machester Airport workers were hoping that the EC would approve permanent user of the machines, especially after they declared that the machines pose close to a zero risk in May.

However the European airport never got the go-ahead. The European Commission's chiefs didn't give approval for the machines to be used permanently after a three year trial.

Now the airport will have to replace the full body X-ray scanners with "privacy -friendly" scanners which will cost the airport over $2 million and 55 extra security workers.

Andrew Harrison, Chief Operating Officer at Manchester Airport Group is frustrated with the decision, especially since the machines received positive feedback.

"Everyone involved is happy with them - they are safe, security like them and in a recent survey 100% of passengers were satisfied with them and prefer them to frisking," Harrison told the BBC.

Harrison mentioned that passengers give Manchester Airport high ratings for security and he believes the body scanners play a big part in this.

"It's frustrating that Brussels has allowed this successful trial to end by failing to make a decision on them at an additional cost of £1.3m to Manchester Airport," Harrison said.

While the machines have been scrapped from Europe, the United States continues to use them. The devices, which were added in 2010, are used in at least 68 airports across the country.

The Transportation Security Administration started to add these scanners after a man tried to blow up a Detroit-bound plane in 2009 with a bomb that he had in his underwear. TSA tests show that the machines don't emit harmful levels of radiation, yet some passengers still opt for full-body pat downs instead of passing through the machines due to a fear of their potential effects.

Research suggests that despite how low the radiation is, hundreds of passengers may get cancer just because there are so many scanners in the U.S. Last year, there were 250 machines in U.S. airports and research suggested that 100 people could get cancer because of them. Airports have added 600 new machines this year.

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