If it’s that time of the month, and you’re due to travel, you might be wondering if airport scanners can detect tampons.
The good news is that the airport scanners which passengers walk through as they go through airport security are unable to see inside the body, so airport scanners are unable to see tampons.
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Why Airport Scanners Are Unable to See Tampons
Airport scanners utilize a variety of methods and technologies to keep passengers safe by scanning both the passengers flying and their luggage.
These scanners include metal detectors, millimeter wave machines, ionizing radiation machines, backscatter scanners, and cabinet x-ray scanners.
Body scanners used in airports include the millimeter wave scanner and the backscatter scanner.
Backscatter scanners work by using low energy x-rays that reflect the x-rays back to the machine.
They do not penetrate the body, just through clothes, and they don’t provide an anatomically correct image either, so a tampon would not be detected by the scanner.
Millimeter wave scanners work by bouncing electromagnetic waves off a passenger to construct a 3-dimensional animated image of the person and what they have on them.
Just like backscatter scanners, millimeter wave scanners are unable to penetrate the body, so a tampon will not show up on the scanner.
Airport Scanners Can’t See Menstrual Cups Either
Just like with tampons, airport scanners are unable to see if a passenger is wearing a menstrual cup or not.
This is due to the same reasons that include airport scanners being unable to penetrate through the body.
Why Passengers Sometimes Get Pulled Aside When Wearing a Tampon
As mentioned, airport scanners are neither able to detect tampons nor menstrual cups.
The scanners use imaging to detect if there is something “abnormal” between your body and your clothes.
This “abnormal” thing could be something you never would have thought of, like sequins or stitching on your underwear, or a fold in your clothes.
When this is done, a TSA agent will pull you aside for additional screening.
In other words, if a passenger is wearing a tampon or menstrual cup and gets pulled aside, it is coincidental and something else between your body and your clothes has set it off.
Airport Scanners Can See Tampons in Your Bags
While the airport scanners used for full-body scans are unable to detect if you are wearing a tampon, the ones used to check your luggage can see anything and everything inside your bags, including tampons.
These airport scanners work a bit differently to how you might think, though.
They work by sensing the X-ray shadows cast by the objects in your luggage.
The shadows’ shape and darkness are then used to distinguish between different items.
An airport scanner that scans your bags can see roughly what the items inside your bag are made of, as well as their density.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).