STACEY HATTON COMMENTARY
May 5, 2010
I always thought my biggest problem at airport security would be setting off the metal detectors with my abs of steel, but not anymore.
Now you have to remove your shoes and your 1980s Madonna belt buckles. Those who have piercings aplenty might as well just stop traveling the skies all together.
After several airline bomb scares, the TSA increased security measures earlier this year. In addition to already swabbing some carry-on bags, airport security may swab passengers’ hands to search for remnants of explosives. Apparently, the Center for Disease Control’s recommended 15-second hand washing will not remove bomb residue.
As a nurse, I have manipulated my share of swabs. I have swabbed noses, ears, throats and other body parts (at an adolescent clinic) that would make Steven Seagal sob like a baby. But this airline swabbing method sounds expensive — and only fairly accurate.
Have you ever experienced in the medical field something called a false-positive test result? This is when a test of blood or urine or whatever other lovely bodily substance required is tested and the results come back positive. However, just because the test says it is positive does not mean it is really positive. Clear as mud, right?
Doctor Empathe: Willie, your blood tests have come back and I’m sorry to tell you, but they are positive.
Willie Beskratchin: (panic stricken) How long do I have to live, Doc?
Doctor Empathe: Well that all depends on the accuracy of this test. (flashing a smile) It could be a false-positive result. We’ll just keep taking your blood, charging your insurance over and over until we get a result that sounds like a winner.
Willie Beskratchin: So if the test was going to be inaccurate, why did we test in the first place?
Doctor Empathe: You wouldn’t know if you had this life threatening disease without testing for it! (He taps his shoulder reassuringly) Your nurse will be in to suck you dry of blood and she can answer any other questions you may have after I have leave the exam room. Take care now!
Same as in hospitals or clinics, false-positives can happen at your local airline. Security can insist you have strapped on a bomb while respectfully escorting you away from the public for interrogation — and whatever else they have planned for you.
However, there is a teensy tiny problem with trusting this swabbing test: if you have a job where you work with various fertilizers, or work with firearms (police, soldiers, bounty hunters) or are taking nitroglycerin for your heart — guess what — a false positive is in your future and so is the walk of shame.
My husband’s job makes him no stranger to the airports of the world, and since I am pretty sure I don’t want my husband blown up by someone’s underpants or sneakers, I am in favor of making the airlines as safe as possible. Swabbing his palms also sounds more enjoyable than, say, a full body cavity search.
So since security is going to take longer with the swabbing method, my thought is this: just as most airlines charge passengers for checking luggage, they should offer other services to help out the struggling airline business. If they are already swabbing hands and having to wait for results, why not charge for throat cultures or H1N1 nasal tests while you are waiting? They could check blood pressures and blood sugar levels for diabetics and passengers could decide if they should board the plane. Just a thought.
Stacey Hatton is a Pediatric nurse and freelance writer. Her blog can be found at http://nursemommylaughs.com.