View Full Version : Lead lined bags to protect from X-Ray

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Ray Rogers
01-11-2010, 05:40 PM
I've never travelled much in Europe, but it's very common in Asia and the Middle East to have the airline check your documents before departure. In fact, I thought it was the norm.

Yes, Years ago there was more interface perhaps... but recently they have been going toward a more DIY self check in I think.

Documents as far as passports and tickets yes, but not I think so much for visas.... of course, the places I travel may have visa free arrangements and that might be affecting my idea of what is "normal". But anyway, the case I had issue with is a country where such an arrangement existed... but security people... not CAs requested/demanded to see & copy my residence permit.

Thinking more on this, perhaps I underestimated what the airline staff do when they take my passport at check in, or perhaps some people over estimate their actions, in either case a residence permit that is external (seperate) to a passport seems out of bounds in my mind.

When put through the machine what do the TSA see? Do they question you? Thanks

Unless things have changed, I estimate the "resolution" is somewhere between a chest x-ray and a cat (ct) scan. Fuzzy, but sometimes quite distinct.

Questions depend on what unacceptable item(s) they think they are seeing...
Usually... "Would you please open your bag."

Sirius Glass
01-11-2010, 06:05 PM
Lead lined bags for film during air travel in today's world is a WOMBAT.



Shan Ren
01-11-2010, 10:24 PM
Ray, I think that in most cases people fly from their home country to one destination, then back. At check in the staff will know, from experience, if a visa is required or not. If required, a quick check is made, often without you knowing. Because I travel a lot, and I mean a lot, I am often flying from my none home country, or place of residence, to another, separate destination. Made even more complicated by having residency in a place that is not my country of origin...... So, examples, flying from, say, New York/LA, or Paris/Frankfurt/London to Hong Kong, (which I do a lot), I have to show my Hong Kong residents card and my visa. Even though I get by rights, on the passport I travel on, 3 months stay. Same if I am going to China, India etc. So I often have to explain, or wait while the person checks. Probably one in ten, one in twenty flights. Varies.

Can be interesting watching the expression on peoples faces as they go through my passport looking at all the pages full of visas .......... and the "oh, I have always wanted to to visit ......, what is it like?" comments.

And, not speaking from personal experience, but I think I would like to know before I get on a plane if I actually need a visa for a place rather than getting an "entry refused" stamp in my passport.

Ray Rogers
01-12-2010, 02:33 PM
So I often have to explain, or wait while the person checks. Probably one in ten, one in twenty flights. Varies.
[cut] And, not speaking from personal experience, but I think I would like to know before I get on a plane if I actually need a visa for a place rather than getting an "entry refused" stamp in my passport.

Shan Ren,
Not sure I followed you, but I take it that this "one in ten, one in twenty flights." means that it is infrequent even in your experience.... if this is the right interpretation then, well that is just my point.

I agree, not any fun to be refused entry! Speaking from personal experience, The only places that tried to refuse me entry was Singapore, where I fought and got a special 12 hour visa... and Egypt, where I refused a government sponsored forced currency conversion scam in order not to lose 30 USD per vacation day. I was held (without officially being provided food or water) for 4 days in a holding cell, with terrorists. I got away with some photographs however, after security felt sure they took the film out of my camera.... ;)

Always expect the unexpected!

01-12-2010, 04:03 PM
As far as I know, the more recent scanners are variable intensity and if they encounter something like a lead bag, they will either crank up the intensity or flag the operator for a hand check. So it's probably not worth the bother.

However, if you are putting a lot of high-altitude miles on the film and it's fast/IR film, the exposure at high altitude might warrant a lead bag. If I remember correctly, a few transits across the atlantic at 35,000 ft gives roughly the same dose as a chest xray. For something like HIE it really might be a concern.

Recently, at MEX airport (a big, international airport...) I had all kinds of trouble getting my IR film through a hand check. They *insisted* on putting it through the machine and I declined and asked for a hand check. To make matters worse, the 120 Rollei superpan that I had shot in abundance has no indicators once it's shot and wrapped, all you see is Rollei, and they have to take your word that it's IR film. Fortunately I also had some delta 3200 on me and was able to convince them that they were similar. I also found a "do not xray" label in Spanish on some boxes in my bag. I also kept saying muy sensitivo; and I have no clue if that is even good spanish but hey it worked. But... even after they had agreed not to put it through the scanner, they still didn't succeed in getting a qualified person to come down and do a hand check. What they had to do was take each and every roll out, individually, and hold it up to the ceiling camera for someone to inspect remotely. They had no sniffers (which I find really unacceptable at an international port of entry, frankly, but I was in no position to protest). The whole thing took ~40 mins for 6 rolsl of IR film and it was damn lucky that I had the wisdom to go to the airport very early. The other funny thing was that there was this lady with a chihuahua that they also wanted to put through the machine!!! She was sobbing uncontrollably. She kind of broke them down for me, between the two of us, who had brought two security lines to a screeching halt, I think several of those inspectors wanted to find other lines of work. In the end, neither the dog nor my IR film went through the scanner. I kept a sincerely apologetic smile on my face throughout and everyone was civil.

Anyway... when I got to the US the inspections took seconds and we even had a good laugh about how sinister the 120 rolls look to someone who hasn't seen one.

David A. Goldfarb
01-12-2010, 06:51 PM
My understanding is that the scanner operator can turn up the gain on the sensor but cannot turn up the X-ray dose.

Here's Kodak's current (2003) bulletin (which doesn't address that particular issue, but covers lead bags, what X-ray fog looks like, and other topics) on X-ray scanners and film--


01-13-2010, 12:33 AM
One advantage of the lead bags is that at least some people actually associate them with photographic film, so the labelling on the bag may help you make your case for careful handling.