Are Airport Full-Body Scanners Dangerous?

Rick Seaney investigates these controversial airport security devices.

ByABC News
October 21, 2010, 8:07 AM

Nov. 4, 2010 — -- Did you hear the latest? Last month, a pilot for ExpressJet -- which some of you may have flown under the name Continental Express -- refused to go through a body scan imaging machine at the airport.

You don't have to; you can always opt for the full body pat-down instead. Only he refused that, too. He was agreeable to going through a metal detector but that wasn't good enough for security and at last report his job is "on hold." (I've asked ExpressJet for comment but have received no response).

One thing I'd ask the pilot: How would you feel if one of your passengers opted out of such screenings?

I recently went through both screenings, the body scan machine and the full body pat-down, and I'm not exactly crazy about either one. That said, I don't agree with some Transportation Security Administration critics who call airport security mere "theater."

But I do have questions about body scanners and I got some answers -- and I'll tell you if I'd go though one again in just a second.

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Have you been through one of these Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines, what most of us refer to as body scanners? It's pretty simple, actually -- put your arms up, wait 10 seconds and you're your good to go. Painless.

Or is it? Some have concerns about safety; if not now, maybe down the road. When I chatted with TSA spokesman Nico Melendez at LAX a few weeks ago, he was patient if a little weary-sounding when he answered my questions (and I wrote about other concerns I raised with him in an earlier column on airport security). I'm sure he's answered these questions many times before.