How do security x-ray machines work in airports?
To keep travelers safe, airports use various screening equipment to verify checked luggage and carry on items for things that are not accepted for air travel. Airport transport administrators screen passengers and their items for dangerous things like chemicals, weapons, and liquids not permitted as carry-on items.
Security x-ray machines used at airports to detect hidden items include millimeter-wave machines, metal detectors, cabinet x-ray machines, and backscatter x-ray machines. Each instrument used has a particular purpose and proper guidelines are always put in place to keep the travelers safe from radiation.
How does an airport security x-ray machine work
Airport security x-ray machines are built to take an image of what is inside your bag for anything that looks suspicious. X-rays launched from one end of the machine are picked on the opposite end by a pair of detectors. As the luggage goes through the lead-lined curtains, it comes into contact with x-rays absorbing some of their energy.
Once the x-rays hit the initial plate-like detector, their position and energy are recorded. They then continue to the second detector however a filter situated between the two detectors blocks the low-energy x-rays because the second detector only takes the high-energy x-rays. Thereafter, the x-ray machine creates an image of the item’s position, what it is roughly made of, and its density by comparing the outputs of the two detectors.
Organic items such as food, paper, and explosives are typically colored orange, while glass and metals are colored in green or blue. Usually the darker the material the denser the items being inspected are. The development of 3D imaging x-ray machines has made the inspection process smoother and the images sharper.
Full body security x-ray machines
Milliliter and backscatter wave x-ray machines can get a detailed view of a person beneath the clothes. They eliminate the need for pat-downs which is why many travelers prefer them to the other alternatives. Travelers are permitted to choose between body searches and scans in the United States; however in the UK and most other countries, an x-ray scan is a must for all travelers.
These scanners detect both steel and non metallic objects on the body’s exterior. Contrary to popular belief, security x-ray machines cannot diagnose a disease or check inside the body cavity. Modern ATI scanners are designed to provide travelers with more privacy with the provision of only a general outline but cannot tell the body type, or gender of the individual. There are however other types of scanners that can provide more specific details.
You can therefore breathe a sigh of relief knowing that AIT scanners are less invasive than other scanners were in the past. The scanning security officer can only see an image like that of a paper doll however in airports that still use explicit scanners, the officer viewing the image is normally situated in a room where there is no direct contact between the officer and the traveler.
Radiation and airport security x-ray machines – is your health at risk?
Three types of radiation are used for security screening at airports which include:
Metal detectors: These instruments measure and generate low-power magnetic fields which are classified as non-ionizing radiation. Therefore exposure to these low magnetic fields causes absolutely no biological harm to people.
Baggage screening: All airport luggage scanners use x-ray machines at security checkpoints. As much as these scanners use x-ray (a type of radiation that can damage cells and lead to cancer), the scanners are very well secured. As a matter of fact, they are so well secured that the operators don’t need to wear dosimeters even as they work beside the machines all day long.
Full body screening: Screening passengers using full-body scanners at airports has become very common today. The purpose is to detect objects like weapons and explosives that could be hidden under clothing. Millimeter and backscatter scanners are the most used in airports today. X-rays bounce off a person’s skin and the effects beneath their clothes. The scanner detects and then uses them to generate an image of the area from which they bounced off.
In this instance, very low-energy x-rays bounce off the skin but do not go through or get absorbed by the individual. The individual is therefore exposed to very little radiation whose risks are very low. Millimeter-wave scanners work similarly however they use radiofrequency waves (RF). The low intensity and non-ionizing millimeter waves pose absolutely no health risks to the traveler. Some countries like Canada only use millimeter-wave scanners.
Radiation is a general term for various moving electromagnetic energy. The main difference is the amount of energy they transmit. Ionizing radiation has sufficient energy to nock away electrons from atoms producing free radicals. These reactive particles can harm DNA and elevate the risk of cancer.
However ionizing radiation can only have a real impact on health when taken in high doses. As much as airport x-ray machines emit ionizing radiation, the dose just isn’t sufficient to do bodily harm. It is so small that it is inconsequential. In comparison, a medical x-ray exposes a patient to radiation 1,000 times more than that of an airport security x-ray machine.
To sum it up
With huge numbers of people traveling around the world, airports must be keen on the security of their passengers. Although airports have always had tight security, the 9/11 attack became a huge wake-up call to governments around the world. Security x-ray machines, therefore, help to keep travelers out of harm’s way by identifying concealed weapons and other hazardous things not allowed on air travel.
The risk of having health effects from the use of x-ray machines such as the millimeter-wave and backscatter x-ray systems is very little or inconsequential. However, if you’re not comfortable with the scanning systems in place, some airports can permit a pat-down. However, be careful not to become a suspect if you’re not doing it for health reasons.