I’ve created this thread to share information with you regarding your rights and the security body scanners currently being trialled in 3 UK airports.
I hope this information helps you to make an informed choice when booking your flights.
The 3 airports in the UK trialling back scatter technology body scanners* are Manchester International, Gatwick and Heathrow. If selected to be scanned / x rayed you have 2 choices – You either go through the scan or you are not allowed to fly.
*Technology can change and currently 2 forms are used, millimetre wave (non radiation) and back scatter (radiation) – Always check with the airport which technology is currently being used
The UK operates a No Opt Out policy, driven by the Government. So, whereas in other trial countries you can consent to a full body pat-down, in the UK, even if you offer to go to a room and strip to your underwear*, you will still have your loss of rights / choice taken away.
*Offering the same level of security check as a body scanner – As confirmed by Mr Steven May on behalf of The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP Secretary of State for Transport, UK Government
Regarding the Back Scatter technology being used at Manchester International Airport, the airport Directors and the Government insist the technology is harmless, both in the short and long term. They use the argument that the level of radiation being administrated is within the recommended, legal limits of dose and exposure.
However, conveniently, they will not acknowledge the fact that ALL official documents written on the trial have certain clauses in them, admitting that like with all radiation, it IS radiation! And long term there may be health effects.
Point 71 from European Commission report:
While the doses emitted by X-ray security scanners to screen persons are rather low, it is evident any exposure to ionising radiation, however small, may have health effects in the longer term. Therefore exposure even below the dose limits set by European legislation require that any decision on exposure to ionising radiation must be justified on grounds of their economic or public benefit to offset the potential damage from radiation. In addition, radiation protection measures must ensure that all exposures are as low as reasonably achievable (the ALARA principle) for workers, the general public, and the population as a whole. Therefore, if and when a ionising technology is being deployed, the improved efficiency in security terms, compared to the use of a non ionising technology, must be weighed against the possible health impact and thus has to be justified through a considerable gain in security level. Special considerations might also be called for when it comes to passengers that are especially sensitive to ionising radiation, primarily pregnant women and children
Further links to documents within the public domain can be provided if required
Finally on the technology, one of the leading experts in the field of radiation Dr David Brenner was a member of the US Government committee that originally set the safety guidelines for these devices in 2002 and endorsed their use. He now says he would never have made that decision if he'd known there were plans to use them on all passengers. He goes on to say that children and passengers with gene mutations - around one in 20 of the population - are more at risk as they are less able to repair X-ray damage to their DNA.
Body scanners are being introduced to combat terrorism. However due to the fact only 3 airports in the UK and a handful around the world are currently trialling these machines, in-flight terrorism is not on the increase.
So, I urge you to think carefully when booking flights and making your choices. Look into the technology yourself, make your own mind up as to whether you want to be scanned... Think about your loss of rights and being unfairly treated as a security threat.
Most importantly, before booking your flight, check to see if the airport you are considering have these machines in operation so you can avoid being in a No Opt Out position.