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November 16, 2011

EU bans airport X-ray scanners over health concerns

The EU has banned airport scanners that use X-ray technology amid fears they could put travellers' health and safety at risk.

By Elisabeth Fisher

The EU has banned airport scanners that use X-ray technology amid fears they could put travellers’ health and safety at risk.

The European Commission (EC) said that no new machines will be allowed at airports until a scientific assessment of the risks has been conducted, but existing machines can still be used

X-ray body scanners emit small levels of ionised radiation that could damage DNA and lead to cancer; research has suggested that up to 100 US airline passengers could develop cancer each year from using the machines.

EC vice-president Siim Kallas, commissioner responsible for transport, said that while it is still for each member state or airport to decide whether or not to deploy the scanners, the new rules ensure the protection of health and fundamental rights.

Additionally, several safety reviewers who at first advised the US Government about the scanners revealed concerns about the machines being used on millions of airline passengers.

Manchester Airport, which has 16 scanners, said that extensive tests have confirmed that body scanners pose a negligible risk to human health.

"It is irresponsible to suggest that because Europe has yet to complete its own health study, our passengers should be concerned," said a Manchester Airport.

Instead of body scanners, European airports will use millimetre-wave scanners that use low-energy radio waves.

In response to the EU ruling, the Transportation Security Administration revealed that more than 300 dangerous or illegal items have been found on passengers since the scanners were first used in the US.

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