A Southern California mom has paved the way for nursing moms across the country who travel with bottled breast milk in tow while going through airport X-ray screening, because she just won a $75,000 settlement against TSA, and has forced the agency to implement some new security changes.
Four years ago, Stacey Armato was detained at a Phoenix airport after she refused to have her breast milk X-rayed. On Wednesday, she reached a tentative settlement with the Transportation Security Administration after filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. In addition to the monetary settlement, TSA has agreed to retrain agents and clarify its guidelines on screening breast milk.
As far as Armato is concerned, the money is not a significant factor, she said, but rather the reassurances about revised training and rules were of the utmost importance to her.
‘We had been waiting for them to really kind of confirm that they would be retraining everybody and making these policy updates,” Armato said. “When we finally got confirmation of that, that was really reassuring.’
Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for TSA, declined to comment on a “pending matter,” however, he did affirm that current TSA regulations classify breast milk as liquid medication. As a result, parents are allowed to tote a larger amount than the normally designated 3 ounces for liquids.
According to the agency’s website, a new system has been allocated as officers now utilize a bottled liquid scanner system in the majority of airports to inspect medically necessary liquids for explosives and other potential threats. Instead of x-rays, the system uses lasers, infrared or electromagnetic resonance in its place.
This particular system was not in place when Armato was traveling that fateful day. She said, in the past a visual screening was all that was necessary when she traveled with bottled breast milk.
While at a security checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Feb. 1, 2010, the Hermosa Beach mom said she politely requested an alternative form of screening for her breast milk. She stated her serious concerns about the radiation exposure to the breast milk, at which point her request was denied.
She was confined in a glass enclosure for the duration of 40 minutes, during which time, she attempted to show officers a printout she obtained of TSA’s rules regarding breast milk, but was not allowed to retrieve the information.
“It was so surreal. To have so many people of authority there acting in concert, kind of watching me stand there and cry,” Armato said. ‘It was just completely mind-boggling. You just feel completely helpless.’
As stated in her complaint, Armato said the police were summoned and one of the officers instructed her to comply to whatever was requested in order to avoid arrest. Armato contends she then endured an “intrusive physical body inspection” as well as another screening of the milk. Consequently, she was released but ended up missing her flight as a result of the whole ordeal.
Armato’s attorney, Rob Mosier, said they plan to make certain that TSA follows through with updates to its website.
“As far as internal procedures, I have to take them at their word that they will do that,” Mosier said.
Armato stated that any financial gain she receives, will go directly towards paying her legal fees, as well as a Los Angeles nonprofit that advocates breastfeeding.
Although its been a long road for the mother of two these past four years, she says its been “absolutely worth it” if it means other breastfeeding moms won’t be intimidated to travel with breast milk.
“My kids are 4 1/2 and 3,” Armato said. “Hopefully one day we’ll have another one, and I’ll be breastfeeding, and these changes will benefit my future travels and also for other breastfeeding moms.”
Hermosa Beach Mom Receives $75,000 Settlement After Suing TSA Over Breast Milk Screening