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Aviation authority halts use of full-body scanners.

fears use of security machine may be harmful to air travellers

Dubai UAE General Civil Aviation Authority has postponed the use of full-body scanners at airports because of concerns they pose health hazards to travellers, a top official confirmed yesterday.

"The installation of the body scanner is not obligatory. There isn't an international law that obliges us to do that," Saif Al Suwaidi, Director of the GCAA, told Gulf News.

A committee comprised of members from the GCAA and technical experts on the scanner, said it would examine different brands of the full-body scanners to minimise any health hazards.

"We postponed the installation of the machines until the committee finds a suitable full-body scanner that would pose the least health risks," the official said.

Although the device is used internationally, some concerns have been raised regarding the safety of frequent flyers such as flight attendants and airline crews being repeatedly exposed to the machines' high frequency waves. "But normal travellers might not be at risk," Al Suwaidi added.

Sensitive subject

The full body scanners that are installed in some international airports in Holland, Canada and Moscow have caused controversy because they create an image of a nude body through the clothing, to reveal hidden objects.

"The body scanner might raise some problems especially in our cultural context where nudity is a very sensitive subject. Even if the face is hidden, there is still some difficulty in introducing the idea here. We are not in a hurry to install the device because our airports provide other security measures such as the metal detector," Al Suwaidi explained.

The GCAA confirmed that not all travellers would be forced to be scanned by the machine. Searches might be conducted randomly or with the traveller's consent.

"In countries where the device is used travellers are asked whether they would want to be searched manually or through the full-body scanner. It depends entirely on the traveller's consent," Al Suwaidi said.

The first airport full-body scanner was installed in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands. The body scanner which is used across many international airports around the world uses the millimetre wave scanner with extremely high frequency radio waves which can reveal hidden objects under clothes.

Supplied picture

Saif Al Suwaidi

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Oct 27, 2010
Words:390
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