Answer to Question #11856 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Security Screening

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


Regarding security scanning devices, is it safe for children (2 to 10 years old) to pass through these devices regularly once or twice every week? Also, is it safe for females to pass through these devices twice every week regularly?


Airport security systems use different kinds of screening equipment such as backscatter x-ray machines, cabinet x-ray machines, millimeter wave machines, and metal detectors. Only backscatter and cabinet x-ray machines generate ionizing radiation. Cabinet x-ray devices are not used on people; therefore they would not be a source of radiation exposure to people.

Backscatter x-ray machines use very low levels of x rays, and by design they minimize x-ray exposures to children and adults. These low radiation doses accomplish the task of security screening on passengers while keeping a safe level of exposure.

The design of backscatter x-ray machines is based on the American National Standards Institute/Health Physics Society (ANSI/HPS) consensus standard "Radiation Safety for Personnel Security Screening Systems Using X-Ray or Gamma Radiation." The standard's authors took into account the varying sensitivity of different groups of people who might be scanned. The authors first looked at a number of reports and published studies on the health effects of radiation. Then they chose a dose level to ensure that children and pregnant individuals can be safely scanned with these devices.

Tom O'Connell

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 20 March 2017. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.