Using the security scanner

Background

Security scanners are deployed at several UK airports to help mitigate the threat from non-metallic improvised explosive devices. This reflects the Government’s current assessment of the risk to aviation in the UK.  Most customers at Cardiff Airport will pass through a security scanner.

Health

All security scanners currently deployed at UK airports use millimetre wave technology.   The use of millimetre wave security scanners in airports is permitted under EU law (Regulation 1141/2011, amending Regulation 272/2009).   Millimetre wave security scanners use a very low power non-ionising form of electromagnetic radiation. The amount of electromagnetic radiation emitted by millimetre wave security scanners is many times lower than that emitted by a mobile phone.   The scanner is not an x-ray machine.  Millimetre wave scanners emit far less radiation than these limits. Safety studies have concluded that, at these levels and these frequencies, there are no known health effects.

Privacy

The scanners deployed at Cardiff Airport use Automatic Threat Recognition software (ATR). This ensures that passengers’ privacy is respected.   No image of the passenger’s body is created or stored.  ATR replaces the need for a human reviewer, and means that the data from the scan is not used to create an image.  Instead, the software uses the data to identify areas which should be checked with a targeted hand-search. This information is highlighted on a generic, anonymous figure. All processing is done electronically, with no intervention by a human screener.  Safeguards are in place to make it impossible to save, copy, or transfer data.

Once you have been through the scanner the Security Officer will show you the image that they are referring to (an example is shown below)

Implanted electronic medical devices such as pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and neurostimulators

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the government agency which is responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work, and are acceptably safe.

The MHRA are not aware of any cases where implanted electronic devices have been affected by security scanners.   If you have an implanted pacemaker, ICD or neurostimulator you can safely use airport security scanners.

What if I don’t want to use the scanner?

A passenger may “opt out” of using the scanner however they will be required to undergo an alternative screening method.  This alternative will involve at least an enhanced hand search in private. The ‘enhanced hand search in private’ is a more extensive hand search, is conducted in a private room, and may involve the loosening and/or removal of clothing.   This alternative screening method will take significantly more time than passing through a security scanner and, as well as a hand search in private, potentially involves additional security processes. This alternative offers comparable security assurance to being screened by a security scanner.

Further information

For further details on the deployment of security scanners in the UK, and the safeguards in place, including the Code of Practice for the use of security scanners, please see this website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/information-on-the-implementation-of-security-scanners.

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