Can a metal detector detect high iron content in a body? Security officers at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) think so.
ILLUSTRATION: Abhimanyu Sinha
A middle-aged Afghan national was recently stopped at the airport when a metal detector sent out an alert when he was being frisked. He was later let off after doctors and security officers concluded that high iron content in his body had caused the detector to beep.
The man, who had come to India for treatment, had to cancel his return journey to his country after security agencies initially declared him a ‘threat’.
The hand-held metal detectors revealed the presence of some metal near his abdomen. As the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) had earlier detected cases of smugglers concealing drugs or gold in their rectum, the man was detained and taken to Safdarjung Hospital for a body scan.
After several rounds of examination, the doctors concluded that he had high iron content in his body because of a medicine he had been taking for his treatment. This, they concluded, caused the metal detectors to send out an alert. The man was allowed to leave after a medical report. The CISF apologized to him for making him wait for 24 hours.
“We have never come across something like this at the airport. The Afghan national had come to India for treatment and was admitted at a private hospital for a few days. We checked if that hospital had performed any surgery and put some metal object. But they denied it,” said a senior CISF official, requesting anonymity.
“He was taken to Safdarjung and a complete body examination was carried out. Doctors concluded that he was not carrying anything inside his body. His prescription was checked and doctors said the alert could be because the medicine had high iron content, which he has been taking for many years,” the official said.
The man did not claim any compensation but the CISF made sure that he did not have to pay extra for his journey back home.
“There have been instances of passengers getting caught with drugs inside their bodies. Whenever something like this happens, we have to make sure the security agencies are satisfied that the passenger is not carrying anything illegally. In this case too, doctors were consulted and they later confirmed the beep was due to the medicine he has been taking,” said Hemendra Kumar, CISF spokesperson.