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TSA Removes X-Ray Scanners at Busy Airports

Because of speed, not privacy or health worries
By Liam Carnahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2012 12:51 PM CDT

(Newser) – Those often reviled body scanners at airports should pose less of a burden to travelers—unless they happen to frequent small airports. Over the past few weeks, officials have "quietly" removed the X-ray machines from major airports including Boston's Logan and Chicago's O'Hare, shipped them off to smaller airports, and replaced them with new machines known as millimeter-wave scanners, reports ProPublica. The new technology uses less radiation than the old machines, and instead of displaying a blurry image of passengers' nude bodies, they show TSA agents a generic cartoon body with yellow highlights over any areas of concern.

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However, it's not privacy or health concerns that prompted the change, TSA officials say. It was all about speed. The replacement machines are expected to make lines go faster at congested airports. Critics point out they're not without their drawbacks, either. Their false alarm error is significantly higher—even small things like folds of clothing or sweat can set them off. There's also a chance that their radio wave technology could prove harmful, but researchers say that's less worrisome than the X-rays used by the so-called backscatter machines. Click for ProPublica's side by side comparison of the machines. (Read more full body scanner stories.)

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