Facts About Radiation from Airport Security Screening

What to know

When flying in the United States or elsewhere, we are subject to airport security screening. Airport security screening worldwide includes the use of body-scanning units. These units can release low levels of backscatter x-ray ionizing radiation and millimeter wave non-ionizing radiation. In the United States, body scanning units use millimeter wave technology.

Body scanners using millimeter wave technology are being used in United States airports.


The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses body-scanning units in airports across the United States. These body-scanning units traditionally use millimeter-wave technology.

Millimeter-wave technology uses non-ionizing radiation in the form of low-level radio waves to scan a person's body. A millimeter-wave body scanner uses two antennas that rotate around a person's body. The scanner constructs a 3-D image that resembles a fuzzy photo negative. The image is sent to a remote monitor.

Millimeter-wave technology does not use x-rays and does not add to a person's ionizing radiation dose.

Radiation exposure from airport security screening

The United States uses millimeter-wave technology in airport security scans. This form of technology uses low-energy non-ionizing radiation that releases thousands of times less energy than a cell phone.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has federal authority to set standards for machines that produce radiation, including millimeter-wave security screening systems.