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Contact Us.A scanner that can render a nude image of your body while you're still clothed might sound like an insidious invention straight out of a science fiction movie. But the technology is very real. Traditional X-rays create images by blasting powerful rays all the way through a human body.
These rays are strong enough to cause health problems if you receive too many high doses, which is why your doctor uses X-rays sparingly. It's also why you wear a lead jacket when you're exposed to X-rays at the dentist's office. The jacket deflects the X-rays before they come into contact with your body. In contrast, backscatter machines use less powerful X-rays. The radiation dose is around 0. These X-rays don't barge through you by sheer power.
Instead, they smack into your body and scatter. Backscatter X-rays interact differently depending on the type of material they come in contact with. Each different type of material, be it organic or non-organic, causes the X-rays to scatter at different intensity levels, providing a lot of contrast in the resulting two-dimensional image.
Security personnel monitoring the scanner can use these images to detect suspicious objects squirreled away under a person's clothing or perhaps hidden inside body cavities. If you're a physics buff, there's a more technical way to think about how backscatter X-rays work. As the X-ray collides with atoms in your body, the photons in the X-ray beam scatter. During this process, those photons also push electrons out of some of the atoms, resulting in ions, and sometimes slower moving photons, too - this effect is why X-rays fall into the category of ionizing radiation.
The scanner uses the energy signatures of those ions and sluggish photons to produce images that identify organic material, like your arms and legs, or nonorganic objects, such as weapons or that belt buckle you forgot to remove before screening. The differences are often easy to see, even to the untrained eye. If this sounds like a pretty high-tech, expensive prelude to your weekend trip to grandma's house, it is.
Backscatter scanners aren't cheap. The TSA currently operates around backscatter scanners in close to airports and is planning to deploy at least 1, total scanners. With that many scanners in place, nearly 70 percent of travelers will be screened using the new technology [source: Los Angeles Times ].
In order to successfully roll out hundreds more of these scanners, security officials will have to counter privacy and health concerns. Keep reading to see how these scanners work in detail -- and why some groups are working to keep these machines out of our airports.
Prev NEXT. Backscatter Tech Backgrounder. Knives made of ceramic are no match for backscatter X-rays, which pick up on all sorts of nonmetallic objects.Rapiscan Systems is an American privately held company that specialises in walk-through metal detectors and X-ray machines for screening airport luggage and cargo.
The company is owned by OSI Systems. The company headquarters, in Torrance, CaliforniaUSA, is the primary location for research and development, engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing, and customer service support. The primary centre for development and distribution of X-ray systems for hold-baggage screening is also at Salfords.
In Opto Sensors, Inc. Opto Sensors, Inc. Rapiscan Metor walk-through metal detectors stem originally from Outokumpuwhich was one of the first companies to develop walk-through metal detectors for security screening.
The systems were originally adapted from metal detectors used in the mining industry to locate parts of broken drill bits in minerals on a conveyor belt. As ofthe company had installed more than 50, security and inspection systems globally, and in AprilRapiscan Systems UK won the Queen's Award for International Trade in recognition of its growth over the previous three years, tripling its revenue during Rapiscan manufactures a controversial backscatter X-ray system for screening airport passengers, the Rapiscan Secure I would be extremely surprised in the next five to 10 years if the Secure is sold to any of these.
They announced in that this scanner would undergo tests in Manchester Airport   and that it would shortly undergo testing by the TSA. Teaming with the University of Manchester and Manchester Airport, they started a research project, EMBody, to develop the "next generation walk-by metal detector".
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Archived from the original on Retrieved Rapiscan Systems. Corporate Backgrounder. November Hidden categories: All articles with dead external links Articles with dead external links from October Articles with dead external links from April Articles with permanently dead external links.
Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Languages Add links.And now we come to the most controversial and hotly debated topic regarding whole-body scanners: their safety.
The question about safety comes down to whether a scanner uses ionizing radiation or not. Ionizing radiation has enough energy to remove electrons from atoms and therefore alter the structure of biological molecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids.
What's the difference between backscatter machines and millimeter wave scanners?
X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation; radio waves, visible light and microwaves aren't. Backscatter machines use X-raysso the question then becomes one of intensity and duration. The manufacturers of the scanners insist that a single scan exposes a person to minuscule levels of radiation. In fact, a Rapiscan executive has said, "You would have to go through [a backscatter] scanner 1, times to equate to one medical X-ray.
You get twice as much radiation when eating a banana than when going through the scanner" [source: Paur ]. But other studies have come to more troubling conclusions. One, from the Marquette University College of Engineering, found that backscatter X-rays do penetrate the skin and strike deeper tissues.
In a second study, researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center estimated that 1 billion backscatter scans per year would lead to radiation-induced cancers in the future. Millimeter wave scanners don't carry these risks because they use non-ionizing radiation. To date, no known safety issues have been found with this type of scanner. Here's another biggie: privacy.
Both types of scanners are capable of producing images that reveal intimate details about travelers. With that said, the TSA has gone to great lengths to protect the privacy of those being scanned. The software of backscatter machines, for example, includes a privacy algorithm to blur genitalia and faces while highlighting potential threats. Most but not all millimeter wave machines use automated target recognition ATR software that renders every subject as a generic outline, with suspicious areas highlighted.
And if it doesn't detect anything suspicious in a scan, it displays the word "OK" with no image at all. For scanners without ATR software, the security operator viewing the resulting image sits at a remote location and communicates wirelessly with the agent operating the machine. Supposedly, neither type of machine is capable of storing images -- each image is deleted automatically as soon as the security team completes its inspection -- but there have been reports of U.
That's it. That's all we have. You may now consider yourself an expert on advanced imaging technology machines. The European Union has banned the use of backscatter machines because it believes X-rays should be reserved for medical use only.A man is screened with a backscatter X-ray machine as travelers go through a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport in Before they were removed following an outcry over privacy, backscatter X-ray security scanners at airports also raised worries among some travelers and scientists about exposure to potentially harmful radiation.
After all, the machines use ionizing radiation to produce those very graphic body images. Now, with the Transportation Security Administration considering redeploying a second generation of such scanners, a report released Tuesday allays some concerns while leaving other questions unanswered. The machines, pulled inexpose travelers and airport workers to a dose of radiation well within acceptable limits — a factor of 10 below recommended safety standards — concludes the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, a private nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to provide expert technical advice.
Even in a worst-case scenario, the report says, if the device malfunctioned and focused the beam on one part of the body, it would not cause tissue damage or result in overexposure.
The scanners were installed in airports in as secondary screening devices but were stepped up to the primary method after a passenger tried to set off a bomb in his underwear on a Christmas Day Northwest Airlines flight. One at a time, passengers step inside the scanners, plant their feet hip width apart, and raise their arms, as if surrendering. A panel slides back and forth and, seconds later, the scan is completed. The airport scanners currently in use rely on radio waves — rather than ionizing radiation — to produce images, which are displayed on standard outlines of human bodies, instead of depictions of a person's actual physique, as was the case with backscatters.
The study, called for by the Department of Homeland Security, followed legislation introduced on Capitol Hill in seeking additional review, as well as concerns by some scientists that the devices — whose radiation doesn't penetrate the skin as deeply as medical X-rays — could nonetheless pose a skin cancer risk or other problems.
Four experts from the University of California, San Francisco wrote the assistant to the president for science and technology insaying existing research wasn't adequate and that the devices might pose a skin cancer risk. Martz was chairman of the committee of scientists, physicists, statisticians and other experts who wrote the report. The committee was also specifically barred from commenting on whether the TSA should use the machines even though the radio wave alternative exists, which doesn't use ionizing radiation.
That the dose of radiation falls well below safety thresholds — and is less than what a body absorbs from cosmic radiation while flying across the country — is not surprising but is only one part of the equation, said David J. He didn't work on the report but has seen a copy. But there is an alternative to this radiation exposure [from X-ray scanners]," Brenner said.
Earlier studies generally found the devices provide a level of radiation well below health and safety standards, the report noted. After conducting its own tests using additional research methods on the two scanners, the committee concluded that the dose absorbed even by small children or developing fetuses would not exceed the standard.
It cautioned that any second-generation machines should have a way to ensure that they do not screen a traveler longer than the short time needed to get an image — and that daily tests on the scanners are used to check that they are operating within limits. Accessibility links Skip to main content Keyboard shortcuts for audio player. NPR Shop. Airports' Backscatter Scanners Met Radiation Standards, Panel Says : Shots - Health News The machines, pulled inexpose travelers and airport workers to a dose of radiation well within acceptable limits — a factor of 10 below recommended safety standards.
Public Health. Facebook Twitter Flipboard Email.At the heart of the controversy over "body scanners" is a promise: The images of our naked bodies will never be public.
Marshals in a Florida Federal courthouse saved 35, images on their scanner. These are those images. A Gizmodo investigation has revealed of the photographs saved by the Gen 2 millimeter wave scanner from Brijot Imaging Systems, Inc. Marshals operating the machine in the Orlando, Florida courthouse had improperly- perhaps illegally -saved images of the scans of public servants and private citizens.
We understand that it will be controversial to release these photographs. But identifying features have been eliminated. And fortunately for those who walked through the scanner in Florida last year, this mismanaged machine used the less embarrassing imaging technique. Yet the leaking of these photographs demonstrates the security limitations of not just this particular machine, but millimeter wave and x-ray backscatter body scanners operated by federal employees in our courthouses and by TSA officers in airports across the country.
That we can see these images today almost guarantees that others will be seeing similar images in the future. If you're lucky, it might even be a picture of you or your family.
While the fidelity of the scans from this machine are of surprisingly low resolution, especially compared to the higher resolution "naked scanners" using the potentially harmful x-ray backscatter technologythe TSA and other government agencies have repeatedly touted the quality of "Advanced Imaging Technology" while simultaneously assuring customers that operators " cannot store, print, transmit or save the image, and the image.
To the point, these sample images were removed from the machine in Orlando by the U. Marshals for distribution under the FOIA request before the machine was sent back to its manufacturer—images intact. First Time Visitor? You're In For A Treat. The A. Shop Subscribe. Privacy and Security. Joel Johnson. Filed to: Full body scans.
Full body scans Tsa U. Share This Story. Get our newsletter Subscribe.If you went on name alone, you might think "advanced imaging technology machines" could help doctors hunt for tumors or other medical conditions.
In reality, the label -- euphemism, if you're cynical -- adopted by the U. Transportation Security Administration TSA describes the whole-body scanners found at airports that detect weapons, explosives or other threats being carried on passengers.
According to the TSA's Web site, the agency had installed advanced imaging technology machines at U. The machines come in two flavors, based on the type of electromagnetic radiation they use to make a scan. Backscatter machines -- about 30 percent of the installations -- send low-energy X-rays to bounce off a passenger's body. Millimeter wave mmw scanners emit energy more akin to microwaves.
Both see through clothing to produce a 3-D image of the person standing in the machine. As soon as the TSA began installing the scanners inpassengers, pilots and public health officials began firing off questions. How much radiation do these machines produce? Is it enough to increase cancer rates in the general population? And can TSA agents see intimate details we'd rather they didn't?
The European Union has addressed these questions decisively: It bans any body scanners that use X-ray technology. That ban complies with a law in several European countries that says people shouldn't be exposed to X-rays except for medical reasons. In the U. And they've taken steps to protect passenger privacy by installing software that either creates generic outlines of people or blurs certain regions of the image. Still, many people remain skeptical that airport scanners, in any shape or form, are completely safe.Full Body Scanner Images
And many more feel a bit lost trying to understand how the machines work and how they're different. With that in mind, we're going to compare and contrast the two technologies across a variety of parameters, starting with the kind of energy they emit.
Print William Harris "What's the difference between backscatter machines and millimeter wave scanners? How Backscatter X-ray Systems Work. How Millimeter Wave Scanners Work. Do backscatter X-ray systems pose a risk to frequent fliers? What's the difference between backscatter machines and millimeter wave scanners?
Like backscatter X-ray machines, millimeter wave scanners produce detailed full-body images of passengers, but they do it with ultrahigh-frequency millimeter wave radiation rather than X-rays.