A small train station in central Guangdong, China unexpectedly became the center of media frenzy during the Lunar New Year when a woman decided to accompany her handbag through a baggage scanner — literally climbing in and kneeling among the items — with the express intention of safeguarding the money inside.
X-ray images reveal a woman curled up and laying in a mess of bags with one arm draped protectively over (what one can assume to be) her purse. The CCTV recording from People’s Daily also shows her disappearing behind the machine, only to appear from the other end — calm, blase, and relatively unharmed — several seconds later.
The unnamed woman reportedly refused to part with her purse and instead requested to escort it through the baggage x-ray machine herself, high heels, jacket, and all.
Despite coming out of the scanner seemingly unscathed, People’s Daily warns that such behavior is “not only forbidden,” it’s also “incredibly harmful,” given the staggering amount of radiation supposedly found in most luggage inspection devices.
Believe it or not, this level of precaution is common during the Lunar New Year — although perhaps not to this extent.
According to Reuters, most Chinese travelers prefer to carry their earnings on hand during the holidays, since this way they can personally guarantee the safety of their money and be able to deliver the cash to relatives themselves. Businesses in China and nearby are at their busiest during the Lunar New Year; as a result, remittances and bank transfers made during this time can sometimes go delayed.
In a sense, keeping your money on your person while traveling is more efficient, although to accompany your wallet through baggage x-ray just to protect it is still — according to commenters — a tad too extreme.
Breaking The Hoax
People’s Daily claims baggage scanners are heavily irradiated, and thus unsafe, but how much of this is actually true? Are baggage x-rays truly as dangerous as they appear? Not quite, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Cabinet x-rays — including the scanners mentioned above — use advanced computerized tomography to screen the interior of people and objects rapidly; these machines emit tolerable levels of radiation and are not meant to pose any health hazards.
Radiation emitted from your typical cabinet x-ray never exceeds 0.5 milliroentgens. Most CT systems radiate even less. The FDA noted that “the average person in the United States receives a dose of about 360 millirems of radiation per year from background radiation” and that “1 milliroentgen of exposure to x-rays will result in approximately 1 millirem of dose.” Background radiation refers to anything that comes from natural and medical sources.
Suffice it to say, the woman that went through the baggage scanner was never in any real danger. But whether that fact will discourage future trips into the machine remains to be seen.