Airport X-ray

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by panchromatic, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. panchromatic

    panchromatic Member

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    X-Ray Damage!

    I'm doing a Speech for my speech class on the dangers of traveling with film through airports and I wanted to include as a source (other than an independant study, sources from both kodak and fuji) a interview. If anyone here would like answer a few questions via email on the subject then let me know. It would be only a few questions, nothign long, the speech is only 7 minutes and you would be one of five sources so it is likely only a sentence or two in my speech.

    The only stipulation i have is that you know at least something about the dangers, you don't need to have a degree as a x-ray tech :smile:

    thanks in advance.
     
  2. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    I travel by air in the USA a lot.

    If it is 100 ISO or lower film, I leave it in my hand luggage. I have seen no increase in fog levels from the hand luggage Xray exposure.

    If it is 400 ISO film or higher I have it hand inspected.

    I do not place film in checked luggage because the Xray dose levels are potentially higher.
     
  3. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    There are two areas of concern. First, screening of carry-on baggage:

    1. The effect of x-rays is cumulative. Two exposures are more significant than one, three more than two, etc.
    2. The exposure associated with x-ray screening at airports in the US is low. This x-ray scanning is done right in front of you as you are going through screening. Remember the last time your dentist did x-rays of your teeth? Because it is not practical for either passengers or screeners to be given the level of protection that you and the technician receive when your teeth are x-rayed, then the dosage at airline security has to be miniscule. As a practical matter, the amount of exposure on ordinary film due to x-ray screening is less than the exposure that the film would receive from environmental radiation during a flight across the US.
    3. It is also consistent - operators cannot "turn up" the machine. The equipment does have an "image intensifier" that is operator adjustable - but this is functionally equivalent to the "brightness" setting your your TV or computer monitor. The adjustment affects ONLY the image that the operator sees on his screen, not the strength of the x-rays.
    4. Therefore, if the film goes through screening only a limited number of times, the amount of potential damage - for ordinary (EI 400 or less) film is not consequential.
    5. But if film is exposed to screening multiple times, on multiple flights, there is some potential for fogging.
    6. There is less consistency in screening exposures outside the US, and especially in "developing countries" where the equipment may be older and not as well maintained.


    The second area of concern is screening of checked baggage. It is becoming more common for checked baggage to go through x-ray screening. The equipment used for this screening at major airports is often far more powerful than the equipment used to screen carry-on baggage. The best available information is that it is possible for this screening equipment to fog ordinary film in one pass. For that reason, it is not recommended that unprocessed film be placed in checked baggage.
     
  4. eric

    eric Member

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    Dang Airport X-ray machines!

    Just came back from 2 weeks in the Philippines. I have no idea, but I COMPLETELY forgot to carry-on my film. I had tons of it. I just processed about 10-11 rolls of 35mm and completetly fine. However, my 120 film, some have about a 2cm band sometimes a little at the tip and some completely all the way down.

    The other type of damage confused me and that's what made me figure it was x-ray damage. Some of my Holga film, I guess being looser wound, had perfect SINE waves all the way down them. I think the x-ray maching in the check-in was super strong. Especially in Korea.

    I have about 8 rolls of C-41 color. Hope those are okay. I wonder if the unexposed films are okay. Sighh.....

    Man, I'm bumed. I think all the luggage and squeezing them in luggage and the 2 kids, I totally forgot about the film. Well, in a way, I have my priorities straight, I need the 2 kids to be comfortable and within eye-shot and not carry tons of stuff.
     
  5. david b

    david b Member

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    dang memory!
     
  6. DBP

    DBP Member

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    You mean you put the film in the checked baggage instead of the kids? :wink:
     
  7. MichaelBriggs

    MichaelBriggs Member

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  8. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    I guess it beats putting the kids into the checked luggage...

    And I wish those who continually advise that they put their film into their checked luggage all the time and NEVER have any damage would read this thread. They might change their tune.

    Very sorry to hear your film was damaged - a really rotten break!
     
  9. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Unexposed, or exposed, but unprocessed film in checked baggage is headed to almost certain death. Film in carry on baggage seems to fare much better, and when mine has been Xrayed by a checkpoint machine, it has suffered no damage. So far I have been granted hand inspection most of the time, and the moron factor in the TSA regarding pro level film seems to be declining. Looks like they may be gaining some experience. Lately, out of Salt Lake they just visually inspect it and then do the "sniff" machine.

    In Paris, I was actually intercepted by a security person who was intent on preventing me from running my film through the Xray machine. Must have been a photographer. Refreshing, to say the least.
     
  10. eric

    eric Member

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    Ouch. I'll have to pluck some 120 out of the unexposed ziplocks that I have and process one.
     
  11. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    For what it's worth, the TSA - from it's first day in existence - has gone out of its way to warn about checking film through. It has described in detail HOW to have a hand inspection, and trained its employees to to do it.

    Along with with the information published by Kodak and others about the ins-and-outs, this is one of the most informed decisions we can make.

    Sorry about the film, Eric. But thanks for sharing the experience.

    .
     
  12. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    My experience with the TSA has not been like that. Only recently have they become more clued in. In the first year or so of their existence, where I traveled, they insisted on Xraying everything, to the point where I began to carry a copy of their own regulation, to show them.

    After having my film Xrayed a few times, or miss my plane, (and suffered no damage) I have lightened up, but interestingly, so have they.
     
  13. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    I absolutely agree with JBrunner and df cardwell about the TSA and film.

    I used to travel for a living, I was in and out of airports twice a week for seven years and flew an average of 150,000 miles per year - inside the US. I got to know the TSA quite well, and in general did not like them, but they have apparently gotten better.

    Anyway, the TSA and the FAA have been publishing information on their websites for several years now, warning of the dangers of putting unprocessed film in checked luggage:

    http://www.tsa.gov/summer/film.htm

    Still, and I do not mean this as a slam on Eric, people either ignore the warnings or they start threads on APUG and elsewhere saying "I'm going on vacation, can I put my film in checked luggage?" And invariably, someone answers that they ALWAYS put their film in checked luggage, they've NEVER had any damage, and therefore, the danger is all imaginary; or words to that effect.

    And for those tempted to use lead bags:

    1) It will not protect checked film.
    2) The TSA actually discourages it at all - for anything, even carry-on. Read it online:

    I'm not one who usually just does whatever the government tells me to do, but it really makes no sense to ignore advice like this.

    Here's an excellent summary of the data available:

    http://www.ecophotoexplorers.com/filmtravel.asp

    And more:

    http://www.i3a.org/itip.html

    Again, Eric, I'm sorry about your damaged film, and I am aware that in your case, you meant to put the film in your carry on luggage and not in your checked luggage. This is meant more as a PSA for those about to travel.
     
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  15. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    My experience parallels yours. After 'requesting' a hand inspection and being told "we don't do that" at some airports - while they "did" do hand-inspections at other airports, I went out and found the Federal Register publication of the FAA rule that said the TSA was REQUIRED to hand-inspect film (and film equipment, interestingly) on request. I printed it out, highlighted the cogent portion, and had it laminated. Carried it in my backpack like a complete prat.

    Showed it to the TSA the next time they turned me down for a hand-inspection. They called over a supervisor, read it, had a good laugh and told me that they can do whatever they want to; they do not have to follow the law. They gave me a complaint form and then xrayed my film anyway.

    As you said, I eventually noticed that I never saw any damage in my (carry-on) xrayed film. I quit worrying about it.

    When it was really important to me, I'd take my film out of the boxes, put the cannisters in a baggie (usually along with at least one roll of ISO 3200 so I could legitimately claim I had 'high-speed' film with me), and handed the whole baggie to the nearest TSA rep, asking them to please hand-inspect, while trying to suppress my BOHICA response. Sometimes they'd be nice about it.

    I'm glad I don't fly anymore. I drive or take the train - or stay home.
     
  16. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I don't generally ask anything, I just let them run the film through the carry-on xray machine. The reason I don't ask for a hand inspection is that most of the film I carry is sheet film, and most inspectors don't understand that you can't open the box without ruining the film. I've taken to carrying QuickLoads, and haven't had any problems with them - the inspectors think they are just Poloroid films, and I don't explain otherwise.
     
  17. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    What a tough break, Eric. You'll never do that again, will you? Sometimes learning from experience is the best teacher. Having two small kids myself, I know how confusing things can get when traveling. I'm sorry about your loss.
     
  18. eric

    eric Member

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    No slam Wigwam. Totally my fault. Travelling with kids is hard enough. Do they have enough things to do on a 16 hour flight? Do they have enough snacks? Potty? You get the idea. My mind was totally elsewhere.

    Anyway, I just processed 4 more rolls. 3 of them look completely fine!

    1 of them, I processed a new roll of Fuji Neopan 400 unexposed and that looks fine as well.

    I'll have to do another unexposed roll in a few days from another random pack of ziplocks that I had.

    I'm dropping off my color film today. Those are 160 Portra so I'm hoping that slower speed film is gonna be okay.

    So far, on this trip, I had a Pelican case and I thought things would be okay but:
    1. My TSA lock broke. That's bizarre, it was fine when I arrived overseas
    2. My Sekonic L-398 broke. That too bizarre cause it was working for a few days. I brought my Pilot 2 as a backup as well as a Pentax Spot.
    3. Dropped a Hassy UV filter and cracked right in the middle. Total loss. What's funny is that when I look through the viewfinder, I can't even notice the crack (but I did take it off for photographs).

    Travelling overseas: Have plenty of backups! I only have 1 Hassy body but I had 2 35mm camera bodies in case.
     
  19. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Great to hear that you managed to salvage some of your film. I'm glad that much worked out for you. FWIW, I think you had your priorities right, you can replace film, you can't replace families.
     
  20. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    I can't even imagine. I did just a few 16-hour flights when I travelled for a living - alone. That was a hassle all by itself.

    Broke or was broken? I bought one of the first 'TSA-Approved' locks (they use key-escrow so they can open and examine locked bags without breaking the lock open) and in my experience, they cut the danged locks anyway. Fifty-dollar locks. The goons.

    Good thind you had a backup!

    For the same reason that if you stand up next to a chain-link fence and focus at a distant object, you won't see the links in your photo, I'm guessing.

    I took WAY TOO MUCH to Cancun, won't do that again. Well, I probably won't do Cancun again, but you know. I agree that backups are good to have.

    So glad you managed some salvage though. I lost all my Manaus, Brazil photos due to lab screw ups, you should have seen me come unglued.
     
  21. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Bands of fog definitely sound like X-ray damage, alas.

    A broken lock sounds like airport pilferage. Check that nothing is missing. It's happened to me twice.

    I've never seen anyone recommending putting film in checked luggage on the forums I follow. There are usually warnings on the machines not to check film.

    I do let film go through carry-on X-ray and have never had a problem. I often use a lead bag for film, and most of the time it goes through without need for further inspection. Sometimes they'll run an explosive residue swab, and less frequently do a hand inspection. I have a small case that I put in checked luggage for all the things that seem to attract the curiosity of inspectors--cable releases, Linhof rangefinder cams, small tools, spanners, and such.
     
  22. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have twice had bags pilfered from, not inspected, but pilfered from, somewhere between when it rolled up the conveyor, and when it slid down the chute at my destination. Pathetic really, and makes one wonder about all the so called "security" when the people actually handling the baggage can rifle through it, and steal.
     
  23. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Indeed. If they can take something out of checked baggage, they can put something in.
     
  24. roteague

    roteague Member

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    That is the one thing I worry about on every trip I take. I don't carry anything expensive in my luggage, but I do carry a tripod. If that should come up missing, I would be in a world of hurt.
     
  25. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    I have had things taken from my checked luggage - particularly after 9/11 when the TSA decided that we could no longer lock our checked bags. But nothing as large as a tripod - in fact, I've put my tripod in my checked luggage on many occasions and not had a problem yet. I suspect that various crooked screeners steal only what they can secrete on their persons. Just an opinion, though.
     
  26. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I'm sure you are correct. A baggage screener (or other person) carrying a big tripod around an airport would probably raise suspicion. Most of my traveling is international, and I've always wondered if, for example, Australian customs can open the TSA locks. Do you know if the TSA has shared this with other countries?