Are Metal Detectors a Health Risk?

Security metal detectors are becoming a more prominent technology in our society as mass shootings, terrorist threats, and general violence increases. While most people don’t mind security metal detectors, there is concern about the possible negative health affects from the radiation that the devices emits.

If you didn’t know, security metal detectors emit a non-ionizing radiation that bounces its beams off of objects to get their outline. This is the radiation that people are worried about. But is there really any reason to be concerned?

Are Security Metal Detectors a Health Risk?

The amount of radiation emitted from a security metal detector as you walk through it is nothing compared to the annual amount of background radiation that you experience just from walking around.

For some perspective, the annual dosage of radiation you get just from walking around is 3,600 µSv (µSv is a unit of radiation). A typical dosage of radiation from a metal detector is about .01 µSv. A single banana is a dosage of around 0.098 µSv. So really, eating a banana causes more harm than a metal detector.

So, are metal detectors a health risk? No. The amount radiation emitted from them is relatively harmless, even for people who regularly fly or regularly go through metal detectors.

Are They Harmful For Pregnant Women?

As stated above, the amount of radiation emitted from security metal detectors is way less than what most of us experience on a daily basis. According to the Health Physics Society, the amount of radiation given off is safe. According to them, there is also no long-term effects on food, medicine, baby bottles, or whatever else when passing it through the baggage handler or metal detector. So, security metal detectors are safe for pregnant women, and their luggage/baby supplies.

The only time a pregnant woman can be affected by the radiation emitted from a security metal detector is through long-term exposure. So, if you work around metal detectors a lot, make sure to keep as much distance as possible, monitor radiation levels, and to follow normal safety guidelines.

Are They Harmful for People with PaceMakers?

One of the most common health concerns about metal detectors is their effect on individuals that have a pacemaker. The main concern is that the metal detectors will interfere with the pacemaker, but that’s highly unlikely. Why?

Well, the Food and Drug Administration has received less than 50 reports of a metal detector possibly interfering with a pacemaker. You also have to understand these reports were prior to 1998, and that pacemaker technology has changed a lot.

So, should you be concerned about metal detectors if you have a pacemaker? No. The amount of radiation emitted is really low and will not affect your pacemaker. The only effect of a metal detector on a pacemaker is having the device set off the alarm, but that’s about it.

Still Concerned?

Don’t be. The amount of radiation emitted from these devices are pretty safe. You receive more radiation on a daily basis, and a couple metal detector scans here and there won’t have much effect on your body. Even if you’re a frequent flyer, or someone who passes through a metal detector often, the likelyhood of you having negative effects from the radiation are very very very very slim.

Still, there’s no doubting that there is radiation coming out of these devices. So, if you’re concerned about your baby, pacemaker, or don’t want to submit yourself to the radiation, then you can opt-out and get a pat down. You can do this by simply asking for a pat down, or by showing your pacemaker identification card to the security officer.

Anyway, don’t be worried about the tiny amount of radiation these devices emit.