Can Airport Scanners See Inside Your Body

Airport scanners cannot see through the body but can detect items concealed under clothes like tampons or inside the body like drugs hidden inside your stomach or bum, but doesn’t show you virtually naked to a strange TSO as a backscatter scanner would do in 2010.

Times have changed; now, there are more safe, more powerful, and more intelligent scanners available, like a Millimeter scanner, which does not see-through the body but still detects everything hidden on or inside the body and shows only a body outline which the agent cannot differentiate between a man and a woman.

These scanners can efficiently see through clothes to find concealed illegal items, without having you undress or make physical contact and also without compromising your privacy and health.

Can Airport Scanners See Inside Your Body? 

Airport scanners cannot see through body cavities but can definitely detect illegal items like explosives or drugs. Scanners do not show the body parts on the display screen except vague genderless cartoon-like avatars. Hence, the passenger’s privacy remains intact from the agents while making sure nothing illegal like cocaine or explosives gets on board.

Can Airport Scanners See Inside Your Body

Thanks to the smugglers of illegal items ( weapons, narcotics, and explosives ), airport security is getting tighter, strict, and brighter. Significantly the use of body scanners has brought a revolution in fool-proofing and outsmarting the smugglers that now is almost impossible to get anything illegal onboard ( This includes modern airlines of tier 1 countries like America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and the United Kingdom).

Can Airport Scanners Detect Drugs

Smuggling drugs and hidden explosives are the two reasons for introducing and implementing Airport body scanners. Since then, the ratio of smuggling drugs has decreased dramatically, as other security threats have.

So, Airport body scanners and baggage scanners can detect drugs in your luggage, on your body, or even inside your body cavities. The primary duty of the agents is to ensure the safety of the Airport and the passengers, but if they detect drugs on you, they will have you over to the local authorities dealing with drug smugglers.

What are Airport Body Scanners Looking for?

The top priority of Airport Body scanners is to detect explosives or illegal powder and chemicals concealed under the clothes or inside the body.

In 2009, A Nigerian citizen tried to explode a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight due to the lack of security equipment and procedures. After that attempt, in 2010, TSA ordered 500 backscatter scanners and deployed them all over the US Airports to control such attempts.

Can Airport Body Scanner see you Naked?

Earlier scanners like backscatter scanners had this technology to see you naked, and agents could easily see your genitals and other body parts. Some nasty agents would even share or save those pictures.

People started calling them “Nudie Scanners,” Due to health and safety risks, TSA sacked those scanners in 2013 and replaced them with Millimeter wave scanners,s which are much safer and less invasive.

Can Airport Scanners See Tampons

Airport scanners cannot see inside your body but can detect items on your body, including tampons, menstrual cups, or even body implants. So items concealed under the clothes are not hidden from the scanners.

Can Airport Scanners Detect Tumors and other Medical problems?

Airport scanners, like Millimeter wave scanners, use radiofrequency waves to scan your body; sometimes, these scanners can alert you to medical conditions like kidney stones but not cancer or inflammation. Sometimes scar tissues can set off the scanner or sweaty armpits.

Is Airport Body Scanners safe?

The backscatter scanner deployed at Airports in 2010 was sacked due to some lawsuits against TSA for the scanner being harmful to the health of the passengers.

Soon, the scanner was replaced with the Millimeter wave scanner that had been used since then and didn’t threaten human health and safety.

According to the Health Physics Society, Airport scanners deliver 0.1 microsieverts of radiation per scan.

However, a medical x-ray scanner uses 100 microsieverts of radiation. Hence, the comparison states that the body scanners are much safer, and the radiation exposure is negligible for passengers.

Can You Refuse to Go Through Airport Body Scanner?

Well, you can refuse to go through an Airport scanner, especially if you have anxiety or are a sexual assault survivor. Then you may get nervous during the pat-down search, which is the alternative method of body scanner search.

In the United States, you can ask them not to scan you from the scanner for valid reasons, but in the UK, if you do not want to go through the scanner, you may not be able to board the plane.

Do You set off the scanner all the time?

Airport scanners are sensitive devices and can sometimes cause false alarms as well.

Although passengers are asked to put aside items like keys, chains, rings, body jewelry, wallets, or other belongings in the side tray for separate screening, sometimes the scanner can set off either due to piercings, metallic teeth, braces, pacemakers, implants, body pins, thick clothes, sweaty armpits, or higher-than-normal moisture.

To save yourself from these procedures, you can also go with the TSA pre-check, and you will effortlessly board the plane with that facility.

But, if you set a scanner for no reason, then you must visit your doctor and tell them that the detector is picking up something which can be a medical condition like a few harmless conditions like lipomas ( fatty lumps ) or lipodystrophy ( abnormal distribution of fat).

In some rare cases, the scanner may be triggered due to folds of your clothes or stitching on your underwear.

Brief History of Body Scanners

Body scanners ( Both the ultra-low-dose backscatter X-ray scanner & Millimeter wave scanner ) were invented by Dr. Steven W Smith in 1992.

After some time, he sold the device and patents to Rapiscan systems ( ), which the Food and Drug Administration later assessed, the National Council of Radiation Protection and Measurements, and other independent sources to establish a commercial use of this scanner.

Similarly, in 2000, Dr. Vladimir V. Linev patented a system for total body scanning known as the CONPASS body scanner.

Things took another turn after the 2009 underwear bomber attempt when a Nigerian citizen named Umer Farouk Abdulmutallab hid explosives in his underwear and tried to explode the Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight. However, it was an unsuccessful attempt, and he is now serving four life sentences ( ).

After that, TSA ordered 500 whole-body scanners and deployed them all over the US in 2010. But early scanners were soon being called nudie scanners because they were too revealing, and some nasty agents would invade your privacy by taking photos of naked scanned images of passengers and would share them.

So, TSA attempted to handle this differently. For the TSO looking at the scanned image would be sitting 100 feet away, not knowing or looking at the person passing from the scanner. Similarly, they made many improvements in the software algorithms to alternate the human body figure with a cartoon-like avatar that would hide genitals but show items on the body ( concealed under clothes ) or inside the body.

Ultimately, TSA’s improvements helped them identify concealed metal, plastic, ceramics, chemicals, and explosive items. The baggage and body scanners would reveal images of hidden contents inside the luggage or hide them on your body.

One thing that you should know is that detectors cannot detect implanted explosives, but the body scanners used at checkpoints would show pictures of contents that would seem suspicious, leading to a pat-down search or a thorough search. Due to privacy and health issues, the scanners used cannot scan contents inside the body. Hence, drugs hidden inside the stomach, bum, or rectum are still undetectable but raised suspiciously can help the agents to find a person with these contents inside the body.

TSA body scan image

You can see the TSA X-ray scanned image of a man and woman revealing too many details. Still, the scanners used now cannot produce such ideas, and TSA undeployed all these scanners back in 2013 due to a large number of rising concerns about the safety and health of the passengers. Instead, the scanners now use “Automated Target recognition” software that replaces the human pictures with a cartoon-like Hillhouse so agents cannot see genitals or other body parts.

Body Scanners and Their Types 

If you are frightened or annoyed that your naked body will be displayed for someone in a mysterious back room, you can relax as that’s not the case anymore, and the scanners are safe. 

There are no known health risks from undergoing a scan, even for passengers with medical conditions like pregnant or cancer patients. But, passengers with anxiety or sexual assault survivors can be cautious because submitting to a body search can be upsetting.

So, to make the process smooth for you, you better follow protocols and take care of everything to feel relaxed when getting scanned before boarding the plane.

TSA body scanners are safe and use whole body image ( WBI ) technology that shows mysterious genderless figures to the TSO. Additionally, the images are never stored, although this topic has been controversial. 

TSA has made it clear that if you are harmless, your privacy will not be invaded, but if someone is harmless to Airports and other passengers, Advanced imaging technology or  AIT will take care of that person.

With these scanners’ help, TSA agents now easily capture smugglers wearing or carrying illegal contents on or inside the body. Thankfully, now they can identify metallic ( like knives ) and non-metallic ( like explosives ) contents and other dangerous items like chemical powders to protect the lives of others.

Although the scanners which are being used for scanning the body cannot see inside the body cavities or below the skin like a medical x-ray, sometimes passengers with hip and knee implants, pacemakers can trigger the scannscannerbefore this happens; you can tell the agents about your situation because as a result of false alarm, you may be taken to a side for thorough inspection or investigation.

So don’t get frightened by body scanners because they detect threats and help in safe flying; body scanning is Plus, the scanned figures are not stored, nor can they be retrieved later.

False alarms are pretty standard during scanning because, during the screening process, passengers are asked to put anything they have in a separate tray that will then pass from a small X-ray scanner. Such items as chains, jewelry, keys, mobile phone, rings, glasses, shoes, or even loosely sealed cups of coffee must be screened separately because there are rules and restrictions for powders, liquids, aerosols, and gels to take in a carry-on bag.

So, during the screening process, forgotten body pins, body jewelry, piercings, hair extensions, underwire bras, minor skin lesions, or even sweaty armpits can get you flagged, and you may be taken to a side for further investigation or inspection that can make you annoy while seeing other passing the scanner and going.

Not only that, prosthetic limbs, medical devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, thick clothes, or even higher-than-normal moisture on your body is enough to trigger the false indication, and that’s why you can opt for TSA pre-check to get yourself on the safe side.

Types of Body Scanners

Let’s now discuss the types of complete-body scan machines you usually use from different security checkpoints.

So, there are two types of scanners: baggage and body.

types of complete body scan machines, and security checkpoints, the most popular are Backscatter X-ramillimetereter wave AIT scanners,

Luggage scanners: 

Luggage scanners use X-rays to scan luggage and can see detailed images of contents inside the bags. 

Nothing can hide from luggage scanners like metallic and non-metallic objects and organic materials. All the things can be scanned, thanks to the complex technology that quickly penetrates inside the suitcase or briefcase contents and calculates the mass and density of the contents inside to establish a shape and color.

Aside from the scanner, two to three security agents usually sit and inspectng the contents inside the luggage to find anything suspicious. You will be asked to open the bag if they detect anything like that.

Therefore, always follow the rules and regulations of airline flights to save yourself from extra worry.

The second type of scanner is a ba Modyscan body of two kinds: Backscatter and Millimeter wave.

Backscatter scanners: 

Backscatter scanners are original body scanners that utilize X-rays containing ionizing radiation but emit a low dose of radiation during the scan.

Backscatter scanners can detect metallic and non-metallic objects and ident or items hidden inside the body, like tampons, menstrual cups, or illegal things like drugs or weed.

The backscatter x-ray scanner showed too many intimate details due to the complaints about those explicit images. In cancer diagnosis cases, the backscatter scanners have now been sacked by TSA.

Millimeter wave AIT scanners

All across the US, millimeter wave AIT scanners are being used, which use microwave technology that contains non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which is still high-frequency radio waves but far less than those utilized by cellular data transmitters.

The image below shows the electromagnetic spectrum; on the left side, you can see the microwaves, and on the most suitablrightyou can see the x-rays.

The millimeter wave AIT scanners use an EHF band that is not capable of posing health risks.

A millimeter wave scanner is not capable of penetrating the human body. Still, it is capacan detect different objects’ material. It provides visual cues in different colors helping,g agents to distinguish between legal and illegal items.

These scanners cannot detect drugs or gold directly, but the composition helps the scanners represent such materials in orange, allowing the agents to identify such things.

This scanner emits low levels of electromagnetic energy, 1000 times lower than cell phone power exposure.

Electromagnetic waves

The immediate difference between both scanners is that the backscatter X-ray scanner takes two pictures, one from the front and one from the back, to identify things. While the Millimeter wave scanner can produce a single image and emits less energy is far safer than the backscatter scanner.

Hand-held metal detector

A hand-held metal detector is used for searching an infant held by a parent, followed by a pat-down search.

Transmission scanners

Transmission scanners are specialized scanners, and the one in the application is the RadPRO SecurePASS scanner. That is not commonly used, and it is capable of seeing inside body cavities and underneath the skin.

Surprisingly, this scanner helps agents find inmates who swallowed ten pouches of heroin and could also see kidney stones in a person who was shifted to the hospital.

TSA won’t get public acceptance of such technology when there are controversies over privacy and safety.

Transmission scanners have a higher radiation rate than backscatter scanners and can detect items inside the human stomach.

Infra-red thermal conductivity scanners

These types of scanners use temperature differences to detect the presence of objects on the body rather than electromagnetic radiation. These scanners detect heat or cool on different surfaces to detect objects but are less commonly used.

How do Airport Body Scanners work

Working with Airport body scanners like Backscatter and Millimeter wave scanners is pretty simple.

A backscatter scanner uses low-energy ionizing radiation that, on the other end, is received by a receiver and, if anything, blocks these waves along the way; that’s when the density and shape are measured. Identification of the object depends on the thing’s composition.

Millimeter wave scanners work by bouncing electromagnetic waves and contract a 3-dimensional animated image of you that shows everything you have.

Airport Body Scanner Privacy Concerns

Unlike the invasive backscatter scanner, the Millimeter scanner doesn’t show explicit or intimate images of the passengers on the screen.

Thanks to the Automatic Target Recognition ( ATR ) software that displays vague genderless cartoon-like avatars and body outlines.

The scanner can hide private parts and genitals; if it detects something, it will highlight that area with a yellow box, helping the agent to target that specific area for further search.

Regarding storage, there have been cases with backscatter scanners where thousands of images were leaked, but now TSA ensures that your image is not even an actual image of a person, and still, they claim that they do not store those images.

So you can say that your privacy is not compromised and would never be compromised in this way.

Future of Body Scanners

Technology is rapidly growing, and with the help of Artificial Intelligence, things are getting more and more advanced.

The body scanners are expected to get advanced enough that they would be able to detect anything on you without having you remove a thing from your body or empty your pockets.

A company called Sequestim is busy producing the next generation of Terahertz Imaging Technology to have scanners implemented with the latest space technology and deep learning systems to differentiate between threats and ordinary objects without using harmful radiation or other health issues.


The simple answer is that Airport Scanners cannot see inside your body like a backscatter scanner. Still, they can detect illegal or abnormal items on or inside your body without exposing your body parts on the screen to compromise your privacy.

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