The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now admits that airport scanners that can see through clothes to create images of the naked body can also detect sanitary napkins.
New York Times reporter Joe Sharkey wrote that he was getting a lot of question from women who travel in a little noticed article Monday.
"Do the imagers, for example, detect sanitary napkins?" women wanted to know. "Yes," wrote Sharkey.
"Does that then necessitate a pat-down? The T.S.A. couldn’t say. Screeners, the T.S.A. has said, are expected to exercise some discretion."
"And what about tampons?" asked the blog Feminist Peace Network. "They look kind of like sticks of dynamite. Are they going to ask us to pull them out and show them just to be sure?"
Some Americans are outraged at the idea that the TSA has the right to touch their private parts in the pat-down process.
On man trying to board a plane at San Diego International Airport threatened to have a screener arrested.
"If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested," the man, who blogs as Johnny Edge, said to agents.
"I felt what they were doing was a sexual assault, and that if they were anyone but the government, the act would be illegal," Edge wrote.
But travelers may have good reason to avoid the scanners. A group of scientists warned Friday that the scanning process may actually be dangerous.
"They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays," Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine, told AFP.
"No exposure to X-ray is considered beneficial. We know X-rays are hazardous but we have a situation at the airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner," he said.
One website is urging travelers to "opt out" from the body scanners and instead choose to have a pat-down in public view, so that everyone can "see for themselves how the government treats law-abiding citizens."
OptOutDay.com declares November 24 to be the day when air travelers should refuse to submit to a full body scan and choose the enhanced pat-down -- an option many travelers have described as little short of a molestation.