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Europe Bans X-Ray Body Scanners Over Cancer Worries; Will U.S. Follow?

The European Union (E.U.) announced this week that it is banning the use of X-ray (a.k.a “backscatter”) body scanning machines over health concerns. Questions have been raised over the safety of using X-ray technology, which is believed to potentially increase a passenger’s risk of cancer, as a means of passenger screening.

The European Commission, which wrote the report, states: “In order not to risk jeopardising citizens’ health and safety, only security scanners which do not use X-ray technology are added to the list of authorised methods for passenger screening at E.U. airports.”

American airports, of course, use both X-ray scanners and millimeter wave scanners (the latter of which is not believed to pose any health risk). The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) maintains that both types of machines are safe.

So, to be clear: This doesn’t mean that flying within Europe lets you avoid the naked body scanners, but it does mean you’re less likely to be exposed to potentially harmful rays on your next European trip.

In the same ruling, the E.U. adopted new screening procedures for the millimeter wave body scanner machines, which are similar to guidelines used in the U.S. Specifically, images of bodies will not be saved, and passengers are allowed the choice of going through the body scanner or undergoing a pat-down.

But should we really trust the TSA to make health decisions for flyers? This is the same agency that a scathing congressional report recently condemned as “a bloated bureaucracy” responsible for more than 25,000 security breaches in the last decade.

The report, by the way, features chapters like “TSA’s bloated Administration and Bureaucracy,” “TSA’s Personnel Failures,” and “TSA’s Aviation Security Failures.” Call me a skeptic, but could it be that the TSA is reluctant to scrap these X-ray machines because it can’t afford another costly failure like “wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds on failed [security] solutions” (another gem from the same report)?

Readers, what do you think? Should the U.S. follow the E.U. and completely switch to the millimeter wave scanners? Are even those scanners too invasive? And do you opt to get up close and personal with a TSA agent pat-down instead of going through a body scanner?

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