X-ray proof undies ‘the answer’ to naked scanners

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A businessman has invented x-ray proof underwear to protect passengers’ modesty when they go through Manchester Airport’s ‘naked scanner’.

Steve Bradshaw, 54, was quizzed by armed cops and missed a flight when he refused to enter the scanner this year.

The dad-of-one, who was due to jet out to Madeira, told security staff the technology was ‘invasive’ and breached privacy.

Steve, a T-shirt printer, says his pants and vests - for men and women - are covered with a special paint made from a mixture of metals and glass. He claims the coating will mask body parts but still allow operators to see dangerous objects such as guns, knives and explosives.

Steve said: “The machines operate at different wavelengths and the pants contain materials which react to radiation at different wavelengths.

“The paint contains barium sulphate, aluminium, ground glass and other materials.

“I have been 35 years in screen printing and I know about inks and what they are made from.

“I ended up making a coating which is a printable plastic ink. It reflects back and scatters the x-rays and is printed in a pattern. Small cut-outs in the design allow a large metal object or gun to show up the operator’s screen.

“I believe it is a compromise because it diffuses the image, allowing dangerous items to be seen without showing graphic detail.”

Passengers are randomly selected to go through the X-ray scanners at several UK airports. Under government rules, anyone who refuses is turned away.

Steve, from Poynton near Stockport, is yet to test his pants with a scanner but has written to the Department of Transport (DoT) to seek approval. An official replied that the government would not endorse his pants but ‘this would not stop’ him from developing his design.

A DoT spokeswoman refused to comment on how security guards would react to x-ray blocking garments.

She said: “The images produced from security scanners do not show any distinguishing features such as hair or facial features, making it impossible to recognise people but simple to detect concealed threats.”

Manchester Airport, which has been using the X-ray technology in all its terminals since October, said surveys had shown broad support although a ‘small number’ of travellers had refused to use the machines.

Several firms are now working on a new generation of scanners which blank out body parts on operator’s screens.

Prof Nick Bowring, an scanner expert at Manchester Metropolitan University, said the technology could work.

He said: “Using a material to reflect x-rays and ‘blind’ the back-scatter machine would be an effective way to prevent outlines of any body parts from being seen. But the detection of the reflective material itself would be very easy and obvious.

“It would appear as a bright region on the image and people presenting with such areas would certainly be stopped and subject to a manual search.”

But he added: “It is much more likely that images of sensitive areas of the body would be replaced by computer-generated graphics, preserving people’s modesty without the need for x-ray reflective underwear.

“We wish Mr Bradshaw well in his business endeavour but fear he will be disappointed as the market for x-ray blocking underwear may prove to be smaller than he anticipates.”