A human X-ray machine which produces 'naked' images of passengers was introduced at an airport today, enabling staff to instantly spot any hidden weapons or explosives. The full body scanner, being trialled at Manchester Airport, will also show up any breast enlargements, false limbs, piercings, and a clear outline of passengers' private parts. However fears have been raised that the Rapiscan Secure , which resembles a large filing cabinet, may not be safe for women in the early stages of pregnancy or children. Other travellers might not want to be scanned because of the graphic nature of the images, bosses admit.
A member of staff from Manchester Airport tests the scanner, which highlights two potential points of threat around the neck and in the right-hand trouser pocket , but also clearly shows off the subject's physique. Passengers can refuse to undergo the virtual strip search at Terminal 2, opting for the traditional 'pat down' search instead. However airport chiefs say the black and white image will only be seen by a single officer in a remote location before it is deleted.
The machine works by beaming electromagnetic waves on to passengers while they stand in a booth, creating a virtual three-dimensional 'naked' image from the reflected energy and sending it to a computer monitor where it can be viewed by security staff. Scans taken clearly show the naked outline of the passengers' bodies, which some passengers may find intrusive. The X-Rays penetrate one-tenth of an inch into the body, enough to detect any devices or drugs hidden just under the skin. Dr Sarah Burnett, who works as an independent radiologist in London, raised concerns about the safety of the device two years ago, when she was asked to undergo a full body scan at Luton Airport.
She said: 'It is illegal to expose people to any level of radiation without medical justification. So how is it that the Government is allowed to irradiate us willy-nilly at airports? We can, however, avoid deliberately exposing people to radiation. Sarah Barrett, head of customer experience at Manchester Airport, played down the fears, claiming that even frequent fliers did not need to worry about radiation from the low-level x-ray.
She said a dental X-ray transmits 20, times more radiation and that the Rapiscan would make the check-in process much quicker for passengers, who will not have to remove their coats, shoes or belts. The images are not erotic or pornographic and they cannot be stored or captured in any way. According to Rapiscan Systems, the California-based company which makes the machines, each scan generates only three microrems of radiation - compared to 10, in a chest X-Ray.
A member of security staff would see a 'naked' front and back view of the passenger left and a computer graphic right which will highlight in red which areas of the passenger needs to be checked by fellow staff members. The Department for Transport will decide whether to install them permanently at the end of the trial, which is expected to last for a year.
Security officials in the United States have pioneered their use at New York and Los Angeles airports, and they are gradually being rolled out in other airports in the country. Last week it was revealed that air travellers could face even tougher security measures, after it was revealed that Al Qaeda may be planning a terror campaign with suicide bombers carrying explosives inside their bodies.
The body bomb threat was revealed after the tactic was used in an assassination attempt on a Saudi prince. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.
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