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Airport body scans will be compulsory in UK

Air passengers will not be allowed to opt out of body scanning operations at airports, the Government has announced.

But future equipment to be used will mean machines, rather than security staff, will see the images of passengers, Transport Secretary Justine Greening said.

And she added that airports will be tested to ensure they remain “unable to copy, save or otherwise transmit images”.

Ms Greening also said that she would consider carefully the EC report on the health risks of scanners, amid concerns that the backscatter scanner, which is being trialled at Manchester airport, emits ionising radiation.

Manchester, with Heathrow and Gatwick, has been trialling body scanners following the Christmas Day transatlantic flight incident when a would-be terrorist had an explosive device concealed in his underwear.

In a Parliamentary written statement, Ms Greening said she believed, in principle, that scanners should be rolled out more widely at UK airports.

But she added that the precise timing of future installations of such devices would depend on how quickly the new generation of scanners was developed.

The European Commission said last week that airports should use scanners that do not involve X-ray technology.

The Commission gave Manchester airport, which currently uses X-ray scanners, permission to extend a trial of the devices until next year while a review by independent scientists is carried out.

Heathrow airport has stopped using X-ray scanners in favour of devices based on millimetre wave technology. Gatwick uses the same. Millimeter wave technology, unlike high frequency X-rays, is not genotoxic and cannot cause cancer.

Earlier this month Dave Bates, the president of the Allied Pilots Association, one of the largest independent pilots' unions in the world, issued a letter urging all pilots to opt out of the body scans.

"We are exposed to radiation every day on the job," he wrote.

"For example, a typical Atlantic crossing during a solar flare can expose a pilot to radiation equivalent to 100 chest X-rays per hour. Requiring pilots to go through the AIT [naked body scanner] means additional radiation exposure."

To read more on Bates's statement visit http://aviationblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/11/apa-president-advises-against.html

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