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No More Groping - X-Ray Scanners in Airports are Safe

A new report from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine finds the x-ray scanners at US airports are safe (even though they're still a little creepy).
Rapiscan Secure 1000 x-ray scanner, from the report of AAPM Task Group 217
Ever since Physics Buzz blogger EchoRomeo took a look at the open questions surrounding airport security x-ray scanners back in 2010, I've made a point of refusing to submit to x-ray scans when I travel. Instead, I've opted to get familiar with many of the wonderful TSA officers trained in (literally) hands-on screening methods. It now appears that those awkward moments staring at the ceiling and thinking of England were probably unnecessary, according to a new AAPM report.

Setup for measuring x-rays emitted by airport security scanners.
From the report of AAPM Task Force 217.

The medical physicists found that you're exposed to as much radiation in 12 seconds of a typical airline flight as you receive in a single x-ray security scan. While it is often said that no x-ray dose is good for you, the amount you apparently get from the scanner is trivial compared to what you get in the air, or even compared to the typical dose you receive from natural radiation sources as you stand in line waiting to be scanned.

The researchers only checked nine scanners, including six in use at Los Angeles International Airport, and three in the factory. That can't rule out the possibility that some of the thousands of other scanners in use at other airports may be putting out more or less radiation than these, but it certainly eases my mind.

So rest assured - you don't have to opt for the security pat down for your health. Of course you can still refuse the scan just for fun, if that's your thing, or if you'd rather be poked and prodded by a stranger instead of having some other stranger behind a screen staring at your naked x-ray portrait.

Hmm. Maybe I'll just take the train.


  1. FREEDOM TO TRAVEL USA ( would like to point out the misleading headline:

    "No more groping..."

    Simply put, you are wrong. People who are scanned by the scanners (which use ATR so that your nude image is not shown to peep show government workers) - and which the x-ray scanners were removed this year and only millimeter wave scanners are left - are STILL subject to groping.

    False positives lead to criminal groping, and at a rate of 7% or so, that is over 20 million people a year. Some portion are subject to criminal groping.

    For those people who "alarm" the system with real things, they may also be subjected to groping.

    Finally, let us assure you that in May yet another mastectomy patient was forced to have her false breast touched by the TSA after she went through a scanner.

    The TSA is an oppressive, unAmerican organization which performs hundreds of millions of uncosntitutional inch-by-inch searches of our persons, generates millions of additional secondary screenings which have never ONCE found a working non-metallic bomb, and have performed millions of criminal gropings each year which would have anyone, including law enforcement officers, arrested had they performed these searches.

    Do not think accepting low-dose x-rays is equivalent to non-groping of passengers.

    Thank you,

    Freedom To Travel USA

  2. Well, no more opting to be groped for me, any way.

  3. By acquiescing to the scanners, you instead are choosing to believe the 4th amendment should be given up for dead as warrantless, suspicionless, inch-by-inch searches of one's person are conducted. No different from searching your house.

    More importantly, you are supporting the abuse of many medically disabled people as they are nearly 100% subjected to groping because of the scanners (as I pointed out).

    When I fly, I do everything to avoid the scanners (and have documented how to avoid them at certain airports) so the metal detectors are guaranteed 100% of the time.

    But, if faced with a scanner, I will opt out in defense of American values, the Constitution, and the people who are constantly abused by the TSA.

  4. I can't get that excited about it. You can avoid the whole mess by not flying on commercial flights. I don't believe you have a constitutional right to fly. So if you buy a ticket, you play by their rules.

  5. I find your trust in the calibration and maintenance abilities of the TSA and airline electronics techs disturbing.

  6. I've made a point of refusing to submit to x-ray scans when I travel. Instead, I've opted to get familiar with many of the wonderful TSA officers trained in (literally) hands-on screening methods. private jet charter

  7. I've opted to get familiar with many of the wonderful TSA officers trained in (literally) hands-on screening on maui


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