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Why is the TSA Removing X-Ray Body Scanners from Certain Airports?

Remember those X-ray body scanners that caused an uproar over privacy, health, and security concerns? The TSA is now quietly removing those machines from major airports—and sending them to smaller airports, reports ProPublica.

The backscatter X-ray machines are being replaced by millimeter wave scanners. The E.U. banned the use of the backscatter X-ray machines last year in favor of the millimeter wave scanners, after questions were raised over potential health risks from the X-ray scanners.

The millimeter wave scanners also eliminate the privacy concerns that the X-ray scanners have caused. The X-ray scanners display a blurred image of the passenger’s naked body, which must be reviewed by a TSA agent in a separate room in order to determine if there are weapons hidden under the flyer’s clothes. The millimeter wave scanners use safer radio frequency waves to scan passengers, and display a generic outline of a flyer’s body, detecting hidden objects automatically. Click here to see a side-by-side comparison of the two machines.

However, a TSA spkesman told ProPublica that, “the radiation risk and privacy concerns had no bearing on the decision” to remove the X-ray scanners from major airports. The TSA’s official stance is that machines are being swapped in an effort to reduce passenger screening time, with the average time to process each flyer being cut from 35 seconds to seven seconds, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

The X-ray machines have been pulled from Boston Logan International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Chicago O’Hare, Orlando, and JFK, and will be sent to less busy airports.

Don’t get too excited about the switch though—the millimeter wave scanners have a much higher rate of false alarms than the X-ray machines (reportedly between 23 to 54 percent for the millimeter wave scanners versus 5 percent for the X-ray scanners), which could result in more pat-downs.

What do you think? Are you glad to see the X-ray scanners go from major airports? Share your opinion in the comments.

(Body Scanner Photo: TSA)

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