Last week, the TSA announced the termination of the agency's contract with Rapiscan, the maker of those full body x-ray scanners at airports we love to hate, in order to comply with a U.S. Congressional mandate. However, before you breathe a sigh of relief - let's examine exactly what that means for travelers.
According to the TSA website, Rapiscan was unable to fulfill their end of the contract and create the ATR software by the extended deadline.
"Machines that body scan with radio waves and produce stick-figure images will be used instead across the country."
Congress included the TSA mandate in the The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, however a one year extension was later announced, giving the company Rapiscan until June 1, 2013.
Critics and skeptics of the TSA question the move by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which houses the TSA after numerous reports surfaced about possible health risks posed by the back scatter x-rays emitted by the machines. U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other legislators have repeatedly called for independent health studies of the radiation levels emitted by the machines, to no avail.
Since 2009, when the TSA debuted the full body x-ray scanners at airports across the country, the machines have been controversial - mainly over 4th amendment rights violations and privacy concerns. However, until last year, many Americans' had never heard of the safety concerns about the radiation emitted by the technology.
From the start, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Transportation and Security Administration Chief John Pistole assured the public that full body back scatter x-ray technology is safe -- without scientific evidence to support the claim.
In fact, decades of research clearly evidences that any dose of radiation increases an individual’s risk for the development of cancer.
Scientists and health experts, including Dr.Oz first expressed concerns about the "backscatter" x-ray technology used at airports in 2010. The National Academy of Sciences and dozens of experts have since confirmed that no dose of radiation is safe. Experts say the cancer risks from exposure to radiation is especially dangerous for frequent flyers.
The elimination of the machines by the TSA may be another ploy by the U.S. government to mask the misguided claims that "backscatter" x-ray technology is perfectly safe.
So, to recap - although travelers will no longer be subjected to Rapiscan’s potentially harmful x-rays, they will pass through what is deemed safer L-3 millimeter radio waves. Instead of revealing your "junk" to TSA screeners, the new software will reportedly display the human body as a stick figure.