Privacy protectionDignity preserving undies under development

Published 17 March 2011

New undergarments aim to protect air travelers’ privacy and dignity; the underwear is covered with a special paint made from a mixture of barium sulphate, aluminum, ground glass, and other materials that work to reflect and scatter X-rays; the undergarments block out passengers’ privates, while still allowing operators to see dangerous objects such as guns, knives, and explosives

A British inventor may have come up with a crafty way to thwart the embarrassing procedure without compromising safety — X-ray proof underwear. According to inventor Steve Bradshaw, 54, the special underwear and vests for both men and women protects passenger modesty by blocking out their privates, while still allowing operators to see dangerous objects such as guns, knives, and explosives.

The undergarments are covered with a special paint made from a mixture of barium sulphate, aluminum, ground glas,s and other materials that work to reflect and scatter X-rays.

He was inspired after being questioned by armed police and missing a flight when he refused to enter a ‘naked scanner’ at a U.K. Airport earlier this year.

The father-of-one, who was due to jet out to Spain, told security staff the technology was invasive and breached his privacy

“The machines operate at different wavelengths and the pants contain materials which react to radiation at different wavelengths,” Bradshaw said.

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

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.”

A similar invention by Rocky Flats Gear invented an undergarment that uses tungsten and other metals in the shape of a fig leaf to block out privates from body scanners entirely (“Privacy pants for airport security” 31 December 2010 HSNW).

The news comes as DHS Secretary Napolitano said yesterday that she is looking forward to the day when travelers will not have to shed their shoes before boarding an airplane.

Napolitano said the agency is developing what she is calling the “airport checkpoint of tomorrow” that will allow passengers to go through fewer screenings.

She says the agency is refining its technological capabilities to rely more on behavioral expertise to spot would-be terrorists.

She said: “Our overall goal is to have an integrated checkpoint that allows people to keep on their shoes, reduces the need for physical searches and maximizes the likelihood that we will prevent another aviation attack.”

The TSA also announced that it will start publishing radiation test results from airport passenger and luggage screening equipment.

TSA officials hope the information will ease lingering fears about potential health risks from the devices.

Officials also said they were testing new software designed to address the lingering privacy concerns.

The job is staggering, according to Napolitano, pointing out that on any given day, as many as 2 million passengers take to the air from America’s 370 airports.

She also said that based on the latest intelligence, aviation remains a preferred target of terrorists who seek to attack the United States.

Napolitano made her comments during a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she also made a jobs pitch to students.

She said her agency needs, “…the minds and talents of individuals who are excited” about entering the emerging field of security.

Bradshaw has yet to test his underwear with a scanner but has written to the Department of Transport to seek approval.