By Jaya Narain
Airport scanner row leaves angry doctor grounded as he claims machines may cause cancer
A hospital consultant was grounded after he refused to go through a ‘naked’ X-ray scanner at an airport, claiming it could give him cancer.
Tony Aguirre expected to be offered a traditional ‘pat-down’ search instead.
But he was not allowed to board the plane from Manchester to Zurich and was escorted out of the airport by police.
Mr Aguirre, an eye specialist at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, said he was treated like a criminal because he was not prepared to accept a ‘radiation assault’.
He said: ‘X-rays are known to cause cancer and I think somebody will get cancer from this body scanner whether it’s me or someone else.’
It is mandatory for passengers to go through the full body scanners at Manchester, Gatwick and Heathrow airports, and staff there have been told that anyone who refuses should not be allowed to board.
The X-ray device scans through clothes, creating an image of the naked body and revealing any hidden objects.
The UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) insisted last year that the technology was safe because the exposure levels are so small. It has approved scanners for all passengers including mothers-to-be.
But recent studies have suggested that the ‘backscatter’ X-rays used in scanners could produce 20 times as much radiation as first thought.
Mr Aguirre, who is originally from Spain, said the process was demeaning and undignified.
He said: ‘You shouldn’t be forced to expose yourself, and it raises moral and dignity issues.’
Mr Aguirre was flying to treat patients in Switzerland, and his wife had to book him another flight to Zurich.
He went from Liverpool where the scanners are not used.
EasyJet in Manchester refused to refund his £58.98 ticket after he was grounded.
Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam was the first airport to implement the scanners in 2007.
The officials analysing the X-rays are usually in a different room and are not supposed to be able to see the passengers being scanned, although they are in touch with security staff.
Various Muslim groups and some Islamic scholars have forbidden Muslim travellers to pass through full body scanners on the grounds that they violate religious laws.
Last year two Muslim women who refused to be scanned on religious grounds were barred from a flight to Pakistan.