Updated: Jul 4, 2019

As the use of body scanners or Advanced Imaging Technology becomes prevalent in most airports, many air users are concerned about the effect of such technology both to the health and one's privacy. This is all you need to know about the technology before embarking on the next trip.

What Airports Full-body Scan is

This is a secondary screening tool, whereby a passenger is scanned on all sides with the use of a millimeter wave imaging or body imaging machine. The image of the scanned individual is transmitted to an agent of the TSA who is usually about fifty to a hundred feet away.

Types of Airport Full-body Scanners

The Backscatter and the Millimeter Wave body scanners are the two popular types of airport full-body scanners. The Backscatter scanner employs the use of low amounts of X-ray technology in producing images while the Millimeter Wave body scanner uses electromagnetic waves over the human body to recreate a blurred image for the screener.

Are they Safe?

According to the TSA, the levels of radiation exposure are very low during an airport's full-body scan. In a bid to address the issues of safety which is a matter of concern for many individuals. The energy emitted from the Millimeter Wave technology is 10,000 times less when compared to the transmission of a cell phone.

The Backscatter X-ray tunnels were the standard at the conception of the body-scanning technology, releasing less than 10 MicroREMs of radiation. This is equivalent to two minutes of air travel for each screening. Research showed that concentrated radiation blasted at a person directly is very harmful. This led to the creation of the millimeter wave scanning technology.

An in-depth look into Millimeter wave technology and its effect on the body during an average TSA screening reveals that these small doses of emitted radiation can cause cancer as a result of their healing properties. Another research on the dangers of using the MWT in the context of treating cancer shows it can result in multiple biological effects. It also showed that the "safe" emissions transmitted in each scanning process could inhibit the growth of cells, damaging eyesight and affecting the way the body heals itself too.


In spite of the fewer health concerns, privacy issues still emerge. These full-body scanners have privacy protections in place; this includes a filter which hides facial features and a no-printing, saving or transmission of images protection. The TSA agents operating these scanners do not come in contact with passengers to ensure privacy is maintained. With these measures in place to protect the privacy of air users, not all persons are convinced. If you fall into that category, you do not need to worry. You can simply decide not to follow through with the scanning option and opt for a pat-down procedure.

Although opting for a manual pat-down reduces the amount of radiation exposure and minimizes cancer development, it remains a physically invasive and unconstitutional exercise. On the other hand, many will argue that it is better than being blasted with a vortex of magnetic and electrical energy. As it moves around you, the full body scanner exposes you to about 0.013 radiation milliwatts. This can also induce sterility, gene mutations, and cancer eventually.