Flying with raw chemicals - A stupendously bad idea?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Harry Lime, Oct 22, 2012.

  1. Harry Lime

    Harry Lime Member

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    Has anyone done this?

    I'm going on an extended trip to New Zealand from the US and am toying with the idea of taking along some basic chemicals to develop film while on the road.

    Methol
    Sodium Sulfite
    Sodium metaborate (Kodalk)

    All packed in white plastic bottles with labels from the Photographers Formulary. (like that makes a difference).
    Everything would be carried in my check-in luggage, along with developing tank etc. My film and cameras would go
    in my carry on.

    Now, given the current travel climate this could be an incredibly stupid idea, inviting all sorts of trouble and problems.
    I can already picture myself landing in Gitmo, with some 300 lbs goon burning toilet paper between my toes.

    Has anyone done this? Does it help if you register this material with some agency or the airline?

    Maybe I should just have it shipped it to me once I get to NZ...

    thanks
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 22, 2012
  2. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    That would be MY choice.
     
  3. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Or mail the stuff to your hotel or wherever you are staying a couple of weeks ahead of time. You will still need to look into the rules, some chemstry can't go on airplanes, so you might need to resort to surface mail.
     
  4. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    All of my chemicals I bought from Photographer's Formulary came either in heat sealed small pouch (that sometimes leaked) or in a plastic bottle and taped up seam. I would NOT try to take these on an airline... All it takes is someone to question something and there's no way for me to prove anything. A small leak can cause a big panic too.

    From security personnel's stand point, there is no guarantee what's on the label is what's inside the bottle. They won't know the company, chemical, or its purpose. It's not like a ruggedly sealed foil package of D76 with big KODAK name on it (which everyone knows). We are in a climate someone will flip out because your shampoo bottle is too large and these are chemicals that are unknown to common people.

    I would just ship it. Not worth the hassle and potential loss or worse.
     
  5. Benoît99

    Benoît99 Member

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    Carrying suspicious looking chemicals through airport security is a great idea if you want to see what the inside of a federal detention facility looks like after a TSA agent checks for contraband in your rectum. How many days/weeks would you be in detention while waiting for the lab report to come back and show that your chemicals were used in photographic developers and were not also useful for making some sort of bomb?
     
  6. Harry Lime

    Harry Lime Member

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    Yeah, it's a spectacularly bad idea.

    You guys have basically painted the same scenario I've been imagining.


    FedEx it is.
     
  7. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Or get it in NZ? They have a couple of good sized cities there. I've been to a couple. :smile:
     
  8. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    just gonna say -- new zealand has camera stores, I bet. Or ask Freestyle to ship your stuff there. I bet they do that all the time.
     
  9. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    If it's not ORM-D, there shouldn't be much of a problem tbh with dry stuff. Most people flip out and way over exaggerate. It's actually pretty lax in my experience, even transferring through China a month before the olympic games (on an Aussie passport though, with VISA on entry).
     
  10. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    It's not that the compounds he listed are dangerous or illegal per se, but they are highly unusual in traveler luggage. Therefore nobody knows whether these compounds (or their oxydation products, or random impurities) can trigger a false alarm in some explosive detector or whatever. And once that alarm has gone off ... well, that's been covered in this thread already. I get enough trouble with my RZ67 plus roll film every single time I fly anywhere.

    Please also think that it may or may not be legal to mail/UPS/Fedex random chemistry across the globe, there's a chance you need a license to do that. Misrepresenting the contents of your parcel may open you to lots of other problems. If random white crystalline powder packages could be simply mailed internationally by anyone, northern Mexico would be in better shape.

    In your situation I would either look for local vendors at the place you go to, or have some chem supplier ship it there. At least they know the regulations.
     
  11. railwayman3

    railwayman3 Member

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    Maybe I'm overcautious but I wouldn't even think about it. I've even been known to worry about putting holiday souvenirs, e.g. packets of local cooking herbs, etc., in my baggage in case they show up on the X-rays. Once had a couple of packets of spices looked at oddly by a customs man...fortunately they were sealed with the makers name, etc., on them. :blink:
     
  12. Murray Kelly

    Murray Kelly Member

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    My advice is to just do it. The worst that can happen in reality is they take the stuff off you. My wife brought back from PF some PPD that they wouldn't ship out of the US of A. She was on holiday with a friend and they shipped it to her daughter's place in NJ.
    Not a thing was said at customs. It was clearly labelled if they had stopped to do a random search.
    Having said all that you can get basics in NZ just like here (Oz). It's not as good as the old days but then, where is for photo supplies?
    Hey! How about some caffenol? Instant coffe, pool pH raiser (NaCO3) and ascorbic acid or Na ascorbate?
    Be prepared to explain. That's it.
    Murray
     
  13. palec

    palec Member

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    I have flown once with liquid fixer, powder xtol, but it was within Europe from Germany to Austria. No problems detected.
     
  14. AgX

    AgX Member

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    This stuff is legal in the EU to take with you, to my understanding even in hand luggage. The problem though could be to differenciate these chemicals from forbidden items.
    You should investigate at your air security authorities in advance.
     
  15. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    I've flown from the US to Europe (Austria) with powdered chemicals more than once with no problems. I usually fly through London, Heathrow. I routinely bring a PMK kit from the Formulary back with me (expensive to get in Europe, but not impossible). I've also brought sodium metaborate back with me in a plastic bag. All with no problems and never a question, even though the last time there was a TSA inspection slip inside the suitcase along with a PMK kit.

    I would recommend that you 1) make sure that none of the chemicals are restricted in any way (ORM-D, etc.), 2) leave the chemicals in their factory-sealed, unopened packaging, and 3) bring along the receipt and packing slip from the purchase of the chemicals and be prepared to show them if you are questioned. That will likely allay any fears.

    The worst-case scenario is that your chemicals will be confiscated and you may be delayed in your flight.

    Best,

    Doremus

    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  16. dpurdy

    dpurdy Subscriber

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    My friend from Argentina tried to take 5 sealed bags of XTOL in his carry on through the Portland Airport where I had dropped him off. He called me a few minutes later to say I had to come get it because they wouldn't let him take it. They did allow him to carry on a few 200 ml bottles of Palladium.
    Dennis
     
  17. Harry Lime

    Harry Lime Member

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    Although it may be perfectly legal to fly with these chemicals, the sad reality is that doing so is a gamble and when you consider the possible consequences, really not worth the risk. I think this is especially true with raw chemicals. You may be able to get away with a bag of Kodak Xtol or similar, but as people mentioned earlier, raw chemicals in a plain white plastic bottle is just asking for trouble.

    I will have everything shipped via FexEd. There are some camera stores in NZ, but the prices are very high. A bag of fixer was listed at $30. I doubt that it would be easy to find raw chemicals in NZ, as I had difficulty locating those in a large city as Berlin.
     
  18. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    It would be a gamble, not worth taking, from my point of view, especially as you can get most of the needed items at your destination, with a bit of planning.

    Strictly speaking, you would need to make a "Dangerous Goods" declaration when shipping or flying with metol. It is a low risk item, but a dangerous one. Formally, it is classified as a Toxic Solid, UN No 2811, Dangerous Goods Class 6.1 (Poison), Hazchem Code 2X (not violent), Pack Group III (low danger). Phenidone would be very similar, speaking from experience of importing a small quantity into Ireland. All that means, is that a white form with red stripes needs to be filled by you, and accepted by the carrier, for it to be shipped. That includes couriers, like Fedex, UPS, or the post office. If you comply, and pay the extra fees, which can be exorbitant unless you often ship dangerous goods and have negotiated those fees, then it is perfectly legitimate to ship it, subject to local laws and customs rules.

    Not declaring it as such, however, puts you at a serious risk. From an airline perspective, they want to know what they carry, so they can be sure they are not cargo-load-full of Metol at a time, that they have space for bunnies (I presume that would be a low risk item), and that they only take a reasonable amount of total risk, with regards to all of the goods they have accepted on board at that time. They would not want to carry a half-of-the-cargo-load of sodium sulfite next to to a half-load of hydrochloric acid, but they may be able to carry each, on its own, or in a smaller quantity. Besides, they have no obligation to carry anything they do not wish to carry, and so they need you to declare it. Ultimately, the captain will make the final decision—even if formally accepted by security, captain can always say no to the carriage of anything (or anyone). Strange laws we have created for ourselves, but there is a shred of sense in them.
     
  19. Harry Lime

    Harry Lime Member

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    And that right there is the problem with still shooting film. Air travel as a film shooter is a nightmare.

    I'm taking along 70-80 rolls of film and I'm not looking forward to having to go through TSA and getting every roll swabbed.

    But the real fun starts once you need to develop everything while on the road.

    Finding stores that sell film material is becoming increasingly difficult. D76, XTOl or Ilford products are the most common, but if you use anything out of the ordinary, you are in for a whole lot of frustration.

    My main developer is Barry Thornton's 2-bath and most of the time finding the raw chemicals to mix it is a serious PIA, even in a large city. Same for finding Diafine.

    So, the whole excursion becomes an exercise in frustration and quite often you end up sitting there asking yourself why on earth you're putting yourself through this trouble, instead of just going digital.

    I guess the simple solution would be to switch to something like Xtol, D76 or DD-X, which usually is available, but the results are different than my standard setup.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2012
  20. hdeyong

    hdeyong Member

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    For what it's worth, having flown a LOT, I wouldn't even consider taking bags of white powder on an airplane. It may be legal, it may not, but the amount of hassle you're subjected to is up to a grade school graduate who may have had a fight with his wife just before he went to work.This is one of those times where I would bite the bullet and pay the extra $.
     
  21. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    I know this is flying against the crowd, but sometimes wierd thing happen. Checked airline baggage coming back from LAX to Toronto YYZ two summers ago. The two 500mL bottles of e-6 reversal bath concentrate ( a clear liquid) that I bought on the trip (taped plastic bottle caps on plastic bottles , zip locked just to be sure) made it. The bottle of opaque BBQ sauce my wife bought was confiscated.
     
  22. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    i brought chemistry to and from france back in 2008.
    dry cyanotype 2 part chemistry ( to france ) , and then liquid,
    also ... 2 curious white powders ... sodium carbonate and vit c ...
    they were in sealed labelled containers and did not cause me
    or anyone any problems.
    make sure the stuff is sealed and labelled that is what i was always
    told to do, and it all worked out OK ..

    of course that was in 2009, and it is 2012 so YMMV
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2012
  23. cowanw

    cowanw Member

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    There is no reason to think that sincere terrorists couldn't purchase packing machines and duplicate Kodak or any other companies packaging.
     
  24. Mike Bates

    Mike Bates Subscriber

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    Ship the film and/or chemicals ahead. Why bother with the potential hassle/confiscation?

    If you can't legally ship the chemicals, you definitely shouldn't be stowing them away in your checked baggage. I've shipped film ahead several times after a poor experience trying to get it hand checked at the security gate.

    A few years ago, but well after 9/11, I was carrying about 20 rolls of ISO100 and ISP400 120 roll film in their original sealed boxes through airport security. I didn't want the film scanned by their x-ray machine, so I was determined to get it hand checked. I even went to the TSA web site and printed the page that explained I had the right to get the film hand checked. I was prepared.

    When I got to the security gate, I put my keys, belt, shoes, and other assorted items in the tray and held up my clear plastic bag of film boxes asking (very politely) if I could have it hand checked.

    "The scanner won't hurt it if it's less than 1000 speed film," the TSA guy droned at me in a much less than interested voice.

    Like I said, I was prepared for that possibility. I explained, again with no attitude whatsoever, the x-rays were cumulative and I was traveling several legs and I'd appreciate it if I could get it hand checked.

    "You're kidding, right?"

    "No, please. May I get it hand checked?" I really didn't want to pull out my printed paper with the rules.

    He sighed a most disinterested sigh and told me he'd get someone to hand check my film. I gave it to him and went through the metal detector to collect the rest of my stuff. He whined at another TSA agent and told him to hand check my film. By this time, I had put my belt and shoes back on and refilled my pockets with keys, change, etc. All I needed was my film checked.

    The second guy pointed at a chair and told me to sit while he checked my film. He proceeded to open every single box (there were about 20) and individually swipe each foil packet, one at a time, and run the sample through the machine. He was in NO hurry. It probably took him 20 minutes or more to individually test every single roll of film. I sat there quietly and when he was nearly done, I commented to him that he was doing it that way because he could, right? He nodded and winked at me. Then he left me with 20 foil packets of film and 20 empty boxes in a big tray. Thanks.

    The moral is, you can make them follow the rules, but you can't make them hurry. I ship film ahead now. It's so much more convenient.
     
  25. Harry Lime

    Harry Lime Member

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    Yeah, I ran in to the same thing when I came back from New Orleans after Katrina, although in this case the TSA people were very polite and swabbed all 70 exposed rolls by hand.

    On the other hand when I flew out of Heathrow, London the lady at the security point looked like she was going to gut me like a fish, when I asked her to check 10 fresh rolls of Delta 3200. When she insisted that it was safe for them to be run through the machine I told her to just throw them in the trash, since they would be ruined.

    I'm taking about 70 rolls down to NZ. If you want to make your life and everyone else's a lot easier there are two things you can do.

    Show up 1-1 1/2 hours early to give yourself time for the inspection.

    Take all rolls out of the plastic containers and dump them in a giant ziplock or storm bag. I put a strip of masking tape marked 1600 asa on the outside and inform the TSA that these need to be hand checked because they are being push processed. There is a certain amount of truth to that since I really do push Tri-X to 1000-1600 on a regular basis.