Report on Airport Scanners by Eileen O’Connor

My family and I recently travelled via Manchester airport for a holiday which ended in New York. I was randomly selected once again and forced to receive another dose of radiation via the airport scanner. My 81 year old Aunt was also selected to go through the backscatter radiation scanner as she was sitting in a metal wheelchair. Her walking stick was taken away and she could hardly stand while an x-ray image was taken to ensure she was not a terrorist. My cousin was outraged as she helplessly witnessed her mother struggling to stand in a backscatter scanner and was not allowed to assist her mother. My cousin was selected to go through the ordinary scanner. My cousin is a professional senior nurse and has been working at Aintree hospital for almost 40 years. We raised our concerns with security only to be told that passengers are not permitted to fly if they refuse to go through the scanners, this is due to UK policy. We returned via JFK airport, New York on 28th September. New York of all places and on this occasion staff assisted us with my Aunt and the wheelchair to security control and asked a selection of questions such as “do you have any metal implants or a pacemaker”, we voiced our concerns about my Aunts metal implants and my concerns about vulnerability to cancer mutations having suffered with breast cancer in the past. The staff offered us the opt out service and my Aunt was not forced out of her wheelchair and given a pat down. My question is – what is happened to the use of common sense and human dignity and rights in the UK? This is not only a serious health concern, but also an invasion of privacy and bodily integrity which could possibly be considered as assault when travelling via Manchester and other UK airports.

The European Parliament voted on 6th July 2011 on a report on prospective EU-wide rules on body scanners at EU airports. The resolution was approved by the European Parliament.

Liz Lynne MEP has expressed concerns in the past regarding the European Commission’s proposals on body scanners. She said “Whist it is important that we take all reasonable steps to improve security and catch suicide bombers, it is also vital that passengers’ health, civil liberties and privacy is protected”. View Liz Lynne’s press releases on the matter here:

The vote in July was a non-legislative resolution. A decision by the European Commission to Member States to use body scanners at airports is expected soon. The European Parliament will have the power to overturn that decision within three months.

In order to raise any concerns regarding the UK Government rules on airport scanners it may be advisable to contact Michael Cox at the Department for Transport, telephone number 0207 944 6651 .
Further information and contact details can be found here:

A powerful letter from UCSF Professors regarding Airport X rays raises many concerns including the fact that “a fraction of the female population is especially sensitive to mutagenesis provoking radiation leading to breast cancer. Notably, because these women, who have defects in DNA repair mechanisms, are particularly prone to cancer, X-ray mammograms are not performed on them. The dose to breast tissue beneath the skin represents a similar risk”. They also state that “The population of immunocompromised individuals–HIV and cancer patients is likely to be at risk for cancer induction by the high skin dose.” Download letter here:

This is a violation on innocent British citizens and an infringement on our fundamental rights and health. The Commission withdrew a draft EU regulation on body scanners in 2008, following objections from the European Parliament. MEPs raised concerns about passengers’ privacy and health, so the Commission decided that further technical analysis was required before EU-wide rules could be adopted read enclosed information contained on page 12 of the EU Commission working paper on Fundamental Rights.

Example of a Communication: Communication on the Use of Security Scanners at EU airports – COM (2010) 311.
‘15. Fundamental rights are protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and by several acts of secondary EU legislation. In the context of Security Scanners in particular human dignity (Article 1), respect for private and family life (Article 7), protection of personal data (Article 8), freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 10), nondiscrimination
(Article 21), the rights of the child (Article 24) and ensuring a high level of human health protection in the definition and implementation of all Union’s policies and activities (Article 35) must be mentioned.
83. Common EU standards for Security Scanners can ensure an equal level of protection of fundamental rights and health. A common level of protection for European citizens in this respect could be ensured by way of technical standards and operational conditions that would have to be laid down in EU legislation. Only a EU approach would legally guarantee uniform application of security rules and standards throughout all EU airports. This is essential to
EN 12 EN
ensure the highest level of aviation security as well as the best possible protection of EU citizens’ fundamental rights and health. The deployment of any security scanner technology requires a rigorous scientific assessment of the potential health risks that such technology may pose for the population. Scientific evidence documents the health risks associated with exposure to ionising radiation. It justifies particular precaution in considering the use of such radiation in Security Scanners. (…)
88. The Commission invites the European Parliament and the Council to examine the present report, submitted in response to European Parliament Resolution No (2008)0521. Stakeholders will be asked to give their opinion at a second meeting of the Task Force shortly. 89. The Commission will decide on the next steps to take, including whether or not to propose an EU legal framework on the use of Security Scanners at EU airports and the conditions to be included in such a framework to ensure full respect of fundamental rights and to address health concerns. This will be done in the light of the outcome of the discussion with the European Parliament and the Council. As any legislative proposal would have to be accompanied by an Impact Assessment, the Commission would immediately start working on such an Impact Assessment to address the issues raised in this Report.’

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