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Are airport metal detectors /scanners safe?

  • Hand-held metal detectors and walk through metal detectors do not appear to pose a hazard to for pregnant women and their fetuses [1,2].
  • Backscatter units create an image from very small amounts of x-ray that reflect off the person being screened.   According to Rapiscan, the manufacturer of the backscatter units, the  dose for one screening from a backscatter unit is 5 microrems (5 millionths of a rem) [3] which is about 1/2000th (0.05% ) the radiation dose received from one chest x ray , a negligible  risk according to the International Commission on Radiological Protection [4]. Travelers may refuse a body scan and opt for a pat-down instead.


1 Kainz W, et al. Calculation of induced current densities and specific absorption rates (SAR) for pregnant women exposed to hand-held metal detectors. Phys Med Biol. 2003 Aug 7;48(15):2551-60.PMID:12953914

2. Wu D, et al. Possible overexposure of pregnant women to emissions from a walk through metal detector. Phys Med Biol. 2007 Oct 7;52(19):5735-48. Epub 2007 Sep 10. PMID: 17881797

3. Transportation Security Administrationís Use of Backscatter Units, The Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, February 14, 2012 OIG-12-38

4. Kal HB, Struikmans H. Pregnancy and medical irradiation; summary and conclusions from the International Commission on Radiological Protection, Publication 84 Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2002 Feb 16;146(7):299-303


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