The New York Times reported this summer that the 244 back-scatter X-ray scanners in use at 36 airports in the US do expose travelers to radiation.
There seems to be little consensus of information about these machines and their possible risks amongst TSA agents in various locations around the country where the machines are in use. In a single month of travel, Travel Mole's US Editor was given three different, conflicting explanations from TSA screeners on radiation issues and the controversial machines when she asked for a pat-down instead of the scan.
In Richmond, Virginia, she was told that the machine was "radiation-free" (it is not). In Albuquerque, New Mexico, she was informed that the TSA is discontinuing the machines (they are not) and at JFK, this week, she was told that the TSA is getting rid of these machines and getting better back-scatter machines with less radiation (they are not).
In theory, passengers who are wary of either the radiation or the invasion of privacy can opt for a pat-down but they still have to explain why they want one to often disgruntled, overworked and ill-informed TSA agents and they will still have to listen to a multiplicity of conflicting information from agents about the machines, their risks and the reasons for using them.
Friday, October 5, 2012