View Full Version : Airport X-Rays, Part II

chris jordan
30-Apr-2005, 23:40
Hello all, thanks for your suggestions and comments to my wife's posting about airport x-rays. I had a terrible experience at Seattle's airport, leaving for a 4-day shooting trip with $500 worth of 8x10 Provia-- the nazi security guard said my two choices were to open the film and show it to him, or put it through the x-ray machine. So after a lot of shouting my film all went through the x-ray machine, prompting distressed phone calls to various labs around the country and my wife's posting here. After receiving encouragement from lots of people who have had film x-rayed without problems, I went and used the film on my shoot, and some of it was x-rayed a second time on the way back home (ten sheets that were still in the holders).

As a side note, with only one exception (which is Dublin), every other airport I have been through in the world has used the swabbing machines to inspect boxes of sheet film, but for some reason the Seattle TSA nazis think they need to actually see the film. In Dublin they opened the boxes and felt the film inside the unopened paper sleeve; other airports have opened the sleeve inside a changing bag and felt it manually; the loser in Seattle would not even allow that-- he said he had to SEE the film, to ensure against "bodily injury to your fellow passengers". The longest string of expletives I could think of would pale in comparison to how angry and violated I felt getting that kind of treatment in my own hometown airport.

But, the good news is that none of the x-raying caused any damage to the film. The exposures are fine, with no visible fogging or other defects. In the future my plan is to FedEx the film to the shooting location, if possible, and then FedEx it back home again, but in a pinch at least the x-ray machines in Seattle and New Orleans don't damage 100 speed film.

I have also just been told that if you join the ASMP ($350 per year), they give you a press-pass kind of certificate that gets you through airport security more easily. I don't know if this is true, or if it would work with the Seattle TSA subhumans, but I'm going to do some research and will report back.




Will Strain
1-May-2005, 01:17
Sorry it was such a headache - but I'm glad everything came out fine. I don't recall from your wife's post...was this a pro job, or personal? Do we get to see the images? :D

John Berry ( Roadkill )
1-May-2005, 02:29
This is what happens when you give a person making $7.00 an hour power without the knowledge of how to wield it.

Aender Brepsom
1-May-2005, 05:52
I can't help it, but I feel I have to write this:

No matter how bad you were treated and how humiliating it is not to be allowed to get a proper handcheck, I think you should neither call a person "nazi (twice), loser or subhuman" nor write it in a public forum. Honestly, I was shocked about that.

And, remember, your film was ok!

george jiri loun
1-May-2005, 06:24
Chris, I'm very surprised that you didn't know that the x ray machine doesn't dammage the film. So much was written about it. Your reaction was that of a beginner traveler or a beginner photographer. I agree with Aender about the obscenity of your outburts.

Michael Kadillak
1-May-2005, 08:08
Purposefully leaving the adjectives alone, there are conclusions to this saga:

1) Each airport has the latitude to screen passengers as they please. There is no standard for reasonableness as it can get even worse any time.
2) X rays and film do not mix irrespective of the ASA. Fortunately, the delivered strength is modest enough many (so far) do not detect the negative affects.
3) Fed Ex and overnight carriers are the only viable insurance against a catostrophic event with your film.
4) Invest in a lead shipping shield because it is only a metter of time for when you might need it.

Carry on!

mark blackman
1-May-2005, 09:23
a lead-lined bag is the worse solution to the problem - the machine will then increase the dose to penetrate it & one cannot be certain whether the larger exposure will damage the film.

I can't speak for travellers in the USA , but in Europe carry-on xray machines will not damage film unless it's particulary fast (which Provia isn't). However, if the private courier companies like FedEx guarantee not to subject your packages to X-rays, they would seem to be the safer option & if you took US$500 worth of film on a four day shoot I can only assume it was a commercial job so the carriage costs would be borne by the client.

David Luttmann
1-May-2005, 09:25

I've had 100ISO film ruined by xrays......so please, keep the newbie comments to yourself. If I was travelling with $500 of sheets, I'd be concerned too. And remember, in the USA, it is your RIGHT to DEMAND a hand inspection. The fool of security guard should be fired for not following FAA regulations.

I have no pitty for their lack of understanding of the law. They should know it before being placed on the front lineup as a security official. Sorry, this goon, or whatever you want to call him, should be fired and replaced with another trained chimp who can follow simple rules.

Thanks for vent. And better luck on your next trip Chris.

Louie Powell
1-May-2005, 09:46
This is a very emotional subject, and unfortunately, when emotion gets involved, reason, common sense, and ordinary human courtesies go out the window.

There are legitimate concerns about explosives being smuggled onboard airplanes. I have had the terrifying experience of having to evacuate an airplane (down the escape chutes - in the rain, no less) becaue of a threat of explosives - and I don't care to repeat that experience. I was also traveling at the time of the 9/11 attacks and ended up forceably separated from my family for several weeks as a result. So I appreciate the efforts of our government to assure that nothing inappropriate gets on board the aircraft.

On the other hand, there are rules that the TSA is supposed to follow regarding hand-inspection of photosensitive materials, and it appears that the inspector was either ignorant of those rules, or else he chose make up the crazy story about not doing hand inspections in order to save himself the hassle. In either instance, the appropriate action is to request that a supervisor get involved.

Hand inspection takes time - and it is essential that a traveler who wants hand inspection allow enough time for that to take place.

But I suspect that there was another issue involved in this situation. Seattle is notorious for having extremely long lines at its security checkpoints. The unfortunate design of the terminal (which predates inspection) forces all passengers to go through one of two check points - and since that airport handles a lot of traffic, the lines at security are unusually long. So it is possible that the inspector saw the hoards of people who were waiting for inspection, and chose to simply fabricate a story in order to avoid having to take longer to do a hand inspection. If so, he ought to be fired. Again, the appropriate action is to request that a supervisor get involved.

Finally, about lead bags. Lead bags will reduce the intensity of the x-ray exposure on the contents of the bag, and they will also cause the x-ray operator to be unable to see the contents. However, the notion that the operator can then increase the strength of the x-ray field to be able to see through the bag is totally wrong - the strength of the x-ray field is fixed both by federal regulation and as a safety consideration. The operator has only three choices - he can increase the contrast of the image on his screen to try to perceive what is in the bag, he can require that the luggage be sent through the machine for a second (or third, or fourth) look, or he can divert the bag for hand inspection. But he cannot increase the strength of the x-rays!

Michael Kadillak
1-May-2005, 10:32
My comment about the lead bag was intended to use it in an overnight shipment (ie Fed Ex) as insurance against then telling me that they will NOT X Ray these packages particularly when going to Europe or other overseas locations. My point is that you really do not know and finding out over a light table after much hard work has been expended is completely unacceptable.

I have had 100 ASA film adversely damaged by X Rays in only one pass. I remember the screener was getting a second opinion from a supervisor as the conveyor belt went back and forth with my bag on the screen for an extended period. I could tell the difference in the subtle qualities of viewing the negative and how it subsequently printed. Never again as I learned my lesson. Can you absolutely guarantee that your film will be run through the machine quickly on one pass? The longer they keep it in the energy field, the more likely it will reach unacceptable levels of artificially induced fog.

Many continue to feel that there is a certain amount of exposure to this energy field that is acceptable to lower ASA photographic emulsions through screenings at airports and my opinion is still that the process is damaging to any film. The degree and the perception of the final product is highly subjective. If you are a risk taker in life, then by all means go for it. But do so fully cognizant of the adverse consequences.

I think that Chris learned his lesson on this one and we should all adhere to his conclusions.

Cheers and Safe Travels!

george jiri loun
1-May-2005, 11:29
Dave, the fact that once you had your film ruined by the x ray machine is irrelevant as you don't indicate any circumstances of the case. And so much was written about the safety of these machines that photographers know they can let the film go through. Literally millions of people let they cameras with film be screened every single day! So much for the safety. As for the rights of the hand inspection it is my understanding that this right exists but can be denied in case of necessity by the inspector.

David Luttmann
1-May-2005, 11:52

First of all, stop spreading misinformation. It is LAW that you are able to DEMAND hand inspection:

"What the Regulations Say

Federal regulations guarantee the right of travelers to have their film and photographic equipment manually checked instead of having it shoved in the X-ray machine. This right means that the screeners may only inspect the film manually, visually, with a magnetometer, with a chemical residue detector, or by requiring you to demonstrate that photographic equipment works. We are mostly interested in Title 49, Subtitle B, Volume 7, Chapter XII, Subchapter C, Part 1544, Subpart C of the Code of Federal Regulations, that is 49CFR1544.2xx

For carry-on luggage:
Section 211 Use of X-ray systems, Paragraph (e) Subparagraph (4):
49CFR1544.211(e)(4) states that "If requested by individuals, their photographic equipment and film packages must be inspected without exposure to an X-ray system."

SO you see, I CAN & WILL demand hand inspection of my film. If the burger cop doesn't like it, that's his problem. His supervisor will have to comply. My complaint from one flight has had a security official repremanded.

As to my having film ruined, it was damaged using the CTX5000 scanner, from multiple passes. So please, spare me the "it is safe" diatribe. Whether it is safe or not, is irrevallent. The rules are in place to have my film hand inspected whether or not the scanner is safe. I will continue to excercise my right. If you wish to take chances with once in a lifetime shots, so be it. But I don't have to, and neither does anyone else.

Kevin Crisp
1-May-2005, 11:55
If the hijackers' tool of choice is a box cutter blade, maybe 1mm thick, how can any of us reasonably expect different treatment? Even if TSA had special absolutely dark rooms for sheet film inspection, how much time would it take to go through 25 + sheets to find a blade? I have not had a problem with film that has been 4 or 5X through the carry on machines. Other than asking for hand inspection of ready loads, I can't reasonably expect that I won't be asked to put loaded film holders or grafmatics through the machine. How many blades could I fit in a grafmatic or a regular film holder? Lots. I appreciate the frustration and dismay, but I can't fault the screeners I have encountered for doing what they have to do.

Paul Kierstead
1-May-2005, 12:04
Ok, aside from whether or not the regulations makes sense, on the more practical side of things: Parcels (including FedEx I am willing to bet) are sometimes X-Rayed, particularly if a border is crossed, and everything I have read says the machines are of considerably higher power (they are designed to x-ray large packages and some distance from the operator) then the ones at check-in at the airport. Having an opaque bag in the parcel is likely to get the parcel rejected or opened. *I* would rate sending your film via parcel, especially "express", higher risk then carrying it with you.

Perhaps a "sensible" (that is, pragmatic about getting your film to the destination and back in good shape) thing is to carry it with you and request a hand check and -- failing that -- allow it to be x-rayed by the check in machines. Unless making a point is more important then your film.

george jiri loun
1-May-2005, 13:42
You see Dave, it's actually not such a great advantage the rules you cite (and good for you that you have some laws on your side) - what does it help in many cases if you avoid one machine at your home airport when you cannot avoid it at the other airport? That's exactly what happened to Chris... But pay attention to the the text you cite - the inspector has right to inspect your film "visually" (and that's what he said to Chris too) - now what that means in case of a film that cannot be seen withour being ruined that's a problem that invites to some nasty discussions between the two. Then the multiple passes you mention are well acounted for in the official tests of these machines -yet they are declared safe. What I don't understand is that Chris felt encouraged by the fact that "lots of people had their film x rayed without problems" - didn't he know the results of the official tests that came to the same conclusion?? I've been knowing about these tests from British Journal of Photography, Shutterbug to name just a few and official web sites for a long time - I think it was even published on this forum or the other. Had he known these conclusions he would be calmer in front of the poor fellow, I suppose. After all, the guy was there just to make his journey safer.

george jiri loun
1-May-2005, 14:44
Dave, the CTX 5000 airport security scanners for checked baggage are high dose scanneres that do dammage film. I think it was clear we're speaking here carry-on film. In case your film went through this scanner it was natural (literally) that it was damaged.

george jiri loun
1-May-2005, 15:11
"every other airport I have been through in the world has used the swabbing machines to inspect boxes of sheet film" (Chris). I wonder if you have ever been to London airports - there they won't even let you think about a hand inspection of whatever film! And if you ask them for it they'll let you know very quickly who commands there...

Jeff Conrad
1-May-2005, 15:23
<cite>... the inspector has right to inspect your film &ldquo;visually&rdquo;</cite>

The inspector has no right whatsoever to inspect film visually&mdash;that
quoted text is not part of the regulation. It would make little
sense to allow an inspector to destroy the film in order to save it ...

Although I agree that the name calling (admittedly, I well might succumb to
the same temptation after a similar experience) isn&rsquo;t likely to win
points with Miss Manners, the inspector nonetheless was breaking the law.
The best approach, as several others have suggested, probably is to ask to
speak with a TSA supervisor. Dan&rsquo;s suggestion to affix high-speed
stickers to the boxes also may have some merit&mdash;if you can&rsquo;t
dazzle a dimwit with brilliance, communicate on his level and baffle him
with bullshit ...

<cite>Each airport has the latitude to screen passengers as they please.</cite>

Although, in effect, this seems to be how it is done, this isn&rsquo;t at
all what the law says. If indeed it were, I&rsquo;d be very surprised if a
court, even in today&rsquo;s climate, did not hold that the law was void for

&ldquo;It is a basic principle of due process that an enactment is void for
vagueness if its prohibitions are not clearly defined. ... A vague law
impermissibly delegates basic policy matters to policemen, judges, and
juries for resolution on an ad hoc and subjective basis, with the attendant
dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory application.&rdquo; (<cite>Grayned
v. City of Rockford</cite> 408 U.S. 104 (1972) (http://laws.findlaw.com/us/408/104.html))

I am as mindful as anyone else of the hazard to anyone else, and I
certainly have no desire to get blown out of the sky. I appreciate the
need for security, but I cannot agree with someone who thinks it is wrong
for a person to insist that the government obey the law. No one has said
it better than Brandeis:

&ldquo;If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law;
it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites
anarchy.&rdquo; <cite>Olmstead v. U.S.</cite> 277 U.S. 438 (1928) (http://laws.findlaw.com/us/277/438.html))

Whether it&rsquo;s worth making an issue of hand inspection is up to the
individual photographer&mdash;one does need to choose one&rsquo;s battles.
Nonetheless, I did a fairly crude test years ago with 35 mm Tri-X (with my
methods, an effective speed of about 250), and found a slight increase in
base density after six passes through the X-ray equipment of that time. I
always insist on hand inspection; so far, at least, haven&rsquo;t had a
problem (I haven&rsquo;t been through SEA since 9/11). I do try to avoid
flying with film and camera equipment whenever possible.

george jiri loun
1-May-2005, 15:38
Jeff, it starts to be interesting from the factual point of view (finally). According to the text cited by Dave (it's not the actual text of the federal regulations but a copied text from a web site) the screeners have the right to inspect it "visually". Do you have the correct text of the law in front of you? Can you tell us what it actually says? Thanks.

1-May-2005, 15:40

It's really unfortunate that you were treated the way you were but I suppose that's the way the world is responding to all the turmoil that surrounds us. The sad fact is that the terrorists are winning the battle with the end result... and that is, the loss/restrictions of civil liberties for citizens from all over the world.

I have to agree with Michael on this one... FedEx your film in a leaded bag to your destination and send it home via the same method. Alternatively, buy your film on location (if available) via a prior arrangement with the distributor/rep, have it processed at a reliable lab that you know does good work, and you won't have to worry about exposure issues going through the X-ray machines. I'm assuming you travelled to another city in the US as I realize this wouldn't be as straight-forward/easy if you were going to another country. [If you ever need to do something like this in Vancouver, BC or Calgary, AB, Canada... please let me know and I'll be happy to give you a hand with this sort of arrangements. :)]

At the end of the day... I'm glad everything worked out for you. :)


I've read some of your other postings and thought you had made some valid arguments in the past... but, on this one, it's a dozzie:

"I would only hope I was on a plane where some raghead bastard was stupid enough to try & take it over with a boxcutter blade. Would give all us passengers a perfect excuse to kill and/or main anyone that damn dumb. Beat them to death with flotation cushons... pull out the drop down oxygen masks & use the line to choke them to death... whatever. No one will ever let a bunch of bums take over another plane like that. TSA and HomelandStupidity are as dumb as the French & Poles at the start of WWII. Prepared to fight the past, not changing and anticipating the future."


Not ALL of them are "RAGHEADS." [To use your prejudicial terminology]

MOST of these people are NOT terrorists and, if you look hard enough... I'm SURE there are some who are working hard to defend your nation against terrorism!

Please DO NOT respond to my comment... I'm sure most folks will agree that you've already said quite enough!

tim atherton
1-May-2005, 15:54
"As to my having film ruined, it was damaged using the CTX5000 scanner, from multiple passes. "

The CTX5000 scanner is not for checking hand baggage but for chekced baggage and it is accepted that it will damage film, depending on the films orientation. (and doesn't need muliple passes to do so. The scanner is more akin to a CAT scan than an X-Ray machine.

They have been in use since well before 9/11. As far as I know (although there was talk of ti) they have not been introduced for checkign carry on luggage eiuther in N Marica or Europe (for one thing, they are pretty large (they look like a very large hospital type CATScanner)

Michael Kadillak
1-May-2005, 16:06
You can be holding a stack of current FTA rules and regulations an inch thick thick to show the TSA inspector staff and I can tell you that it is not worth the paper it is written on. Going through Denver International Airport with this information a while back I ask for the head inspector or supervisor and he told me that it is open the box, go through the x ray machine or go home. I asked for his supervisor and he said that he was the main man. End of discussion. I bring up the word "lawyer", he casually reaches in his front pocket to hand me his business card and tells me he wants to make sure that I have his name and title correct and personally leads me out of the screening area. Boy, I sure showed him didn't I?

If all mail is x rayed, how is it that I we can all get film in the mail from Croatia and elsewhere that has minimal fb+fog?

Be reasonable people. We can whine until the cows come home but it is what it is. And unfortunately, it will probably get worse before it gets any better. I can envision private LF fim cooperatives in various parts of the country that participating photographers can network through to secure film at their destinations wherever it may be so that film and airports will be a thing of the past. All you need to get in would be a 23 cubic foot freezer full of film.

Anyone coming to Colorado soon, I got you covered.


Jeff Conrad
1-May-2005, 16:38

Dave&rsquo;s quotation of 49 CFR 1544.211(e)(4) is correct:

&ldquo;If requested by individuals, their photographic equipment and film
packages must be inspected without exposure to an X-ray system.&rdquo;

This is all that the law has to say on the matter, and it&rsquo;s simply a
restatement of 14 CFR 108.17(e) that was in effect for years prior to 9/11:

&ldquo;If requested by passengers, their photographic equipment and film
packages shall be inspected without exposure to an X-ray system.&rdquo;

As has been mentioned, this issue tends to get emotional, as does any issue
affecting a photographer&rsquo;s freedom. In most cases, however, what we
or anyone else think is reasonable is for the most part
irrelevant&mdash;it&rsquo;s a matter of law rather than belief.
Photographers and enforcement personnel alike should be aware of the
applicable laws, and both should observe them. Obviously, photographers
who cite the law for a particular jurisdiction (in this case, the United
States) must keep in mind that it applies only in that jurisdiction.

A bit of diplomacy often can head off a potentially heated discussion. Many
photographers have had good luck agreeing with TSA inspectors that a single
pass through X-ray equipment isn&rsquo;t likely to be a problem for low- or
medium-speed film, but pointing out that the same may not be true for
repeated exposures. With this explanation, rather than a challenge to
their authority, many inspectors are more cooperative.

This explanation essentially is the same as that in the

Transporting Film (http://www.tsa.gov/public/interapp/editorial/editorial_1035.xml) article on the TSA web site:

&ldquo;If the same roll of film is exposed to X-ray inspections more than 5
times before it is developed, however, damage may occur. Protect your film
by requesting a hand-inspection for your film if it has already passed
through the carry-on baggage screening equipment (X-ray) more than 5 times.&rdquo;

so a TSA inspector or supervisor easily can check it if he or she is skeptical.

Paddy Quinn
1-May-2005, 17:01
"Every time we have an enemy in site, we dehumanize the bums. From 'Japs' to 'krauts' to 'gooks' to 'towelheads'. Too damn bad."

I seem to remember you lost one of those rather badly? By a people who live in what I can only imagine you consider a "sewer infested backwater" And I suppose the jury is still out on the last one.

I so heartening to see that xenophobic isolationism never really went out of fashion in the US. Where would we be without it. Hurrah for our neo-imperialist ambitions and all that.

george jiri loun
1-May-2005, 17:03
Good, Jeff, that's one part of Dave's citation but it doesn't make things better, I'm affraid. It's the first part of his citation where it says "...screeners may only inspect the film manually, visually..." (and we know now that this part is not the text of the regulation contrary to the citation) that poses problem. What is this visual inspection in case of a hermetically closed film? Is it just a casual look at the item or a closed look at its content..? It's more the nature of the hand inspection that is the problem rather than just avoiding the x ray. And it's probably there the space for individual imagination of a single inspector what to do with the film you put into his hands... If the regulation doesn't state how far the look can go we're in troubles and the best is probably to put it back on the machine...

Jorge Gasteazoro
1-May-2005, 17:24
LF fim cooperatives in various parts of the country that participating photographers can network through to secure film at their destinations wherever it may be so that film and airports will be a thing of the past.

There is one already, I am susprised more people here dont use it. The LF photographers list is somewhere in this site, you can check if someone lives hwere you are going and e mail him/her to ask them if they would be willing to hold film for you.

Personally I have had 3 guys comming to Mexico who asked me to get chemicals and film for them, I was glad to do so.....

Tom Diekwisch
1-May-2005, 17:38
Goerge's comments are really too unfortunate as they use general statements about the safety of airport X-ray machine. As much as there have been many who's film went through the machines without problems, there have been as many who have had X-ray damage. Just from my humble perspective I am sure the FAA wouldn't allow for exceptions if there wasn't a problem. Years ago I also believed that the machines were safe until I had material for an important assignment damaged due to X-ray machines. Just for the sake of accuracy, in this case it was 35mm, and it was bought in those 20 roll pro-packs. I exposed roughly 5 rolls. Another 5 were carried with me for reserve purposes. This was a one-week assignment, and nothing unusual happened to the film other than that I took it with me on the plane. When I got the film developed afterwards in one of Chicago's biggest pro-labs, which always develops my film and routinely does a superb job, the film was damaged to a degree that it was no longer usuable. The entire job was ruined. Just to make sure, I developed some film from the same box that I carried with me and didn't expose and some of the left-over, and it turned out that all the film I took with me had spotty fogging all over the emulsion while the one that stayed at home didn't. I wouldn't even have been suspicious if I wouldn't have had the same experience previous with film that was scanned. George may or may not believe my story, but that was my experience, and there are hundreds or thousands of internet postings with similar experiences. I guess you change your mind after a job has been irreplacibly ruined by X-ray, including an ever-so-small slice of your professional credibility. BTW - the film was 100ASA film. On the other hand, I have never been refused hand-inspection afterwards. The security people see my camera equipment and figure out the rest. I am usually very polite and supportive of whatever they require. From time to time I ask for a superviser. I just explain my situation and I have found security people to be quite accommodating. I'd also argue that the overall-makeup and training of the security crowd has significantly improved after 9/11. I don't know specifics and as much as I don't like blanket statements, but meanwhile I find them to be more intelligent than the pre-9/11 inspectors. I still remember, and here I agree with a previous poster, that the pre-9/11 inspectors often weren't able to comprehend that those metal cases I was carrying were cameras, while today they often spot them first time as such and even engage in conversations about camera equipment. There was one who would have wished to confiscate the entire bag... Anyway, joking aside, X-ray damage happens, and has at least happened to me. If it doesn't happen to you consider yourself fortunate, because you'll make a long face, if all your film was ruined.

george jiri loun
1-May-2005, 18:19
I really don't see anything unfortunate on the fact that x ray machines for hand baggage were tested by professionals from photography industry and were declared safe in their limits. Quite the contrary.

Mike Lewis
1-May-2005, 19:27
Avoid TSA and the airports and ship your film via FedEx to and from your destination. I ship Quickloads via FedEx Ground in a box prominently marked "Photographic Film-- Do Not X-Ray". Three boxes of Quickloads in a 6x6x12 inch cardboard box weighs about 3.5 pounds and costs about $6-9 to ship domestically in the U.S., taking about five business days. If you're not in a hurry to get your film back, this works. If you are in a hurry, two boxes of Quickloads shipped 3-day FedEx air costs about $18 for domestic U.S. shipment. I've never shipped overnight, but it's hard for me to imagine an LF photographer being in that much of a hurry about, well, anything. :-) I've shipped both FedEx ground and air and haven't had a detectable problem with X-rays, given my marked box.

About that box; it's looking kinda beat-up. Guess I'd better start using a new one. :-)

Will Strain
1-May-2005, 19:47
From the same TSA film link provided above:

Specialty film **

Specialty film is defined as film with an ASA/ISO 800 or higher and typically used by professionals.

At the passenger security checkpoint, you should remove the following types of film from your carry-on baggage and ask for a hand inspection:

Film with an ASA/ISO 800 or higher
Highly sensitive X-ray or scientific films
Film of any speed which is subjected to X-ray surveillance more than 5 times (the effect of X-ray screening is cumulative)
Film that is or will be underexposed
Film that you intend to 'push process'
Sheet film
Large format film
Medical film
Scientific film
Motion picture film
Professional grade film

So large format professional grade film hits it on several levels. I'm going to print out this page and take it with me everywhere... at least it has the TSA logo on the top...

Will Strain
1-May-2005, 19:49
Mike - I think if I saw a box that claimed it was something, and prominently marked to not x-ray... I would imediately be suspicious of it.

Sorry about my previous post... that was a nice list, but the formatting died.

Brian Ellis
1-May-2005, 23:08
I just got back from a trip where some of the film in my box of 100 T Max that started out as a 100 sheet box was xrayed for the tenth time, twice on this trip, twice on a trip earlier this year to the Smokies, four times on a trip to Ireland, and twice on a trip to the Southwest last year. I just developed the first 8 sheets exposed during this latest trip. Those are among the sheets that have now been x rayed 10 times and the negatives are fine. I don't ever ask for a hand inspection any more or bother to keep track of how many times a box has been xrayed, no reason to do it with 100 speed film.

Jeff Conrad
2-May-2005, 02:23
It's the first part of his citation where it says "...screeners may only
inspect the film manually, visually..." (and we know now that this part is
not the text of the regulation contrary to the citation) that poses

But where is this citation from? The only hit that Google turns up is
Aaron Parmet&rsquo;s

X-ray page (http://home.kc.rr.com/aaronphoto/xray.html), which hardly is an official source of authority for anyone to do

I bring up the word &ldquo;lawyer&rdquo;, he casually reaches in his front
pocket to hand me his business card and tells me he wants to make sure that
I have his name and title correct and personally leads me out of the
screening area. Boy, I sure showed him didn&rsquo;t I?

I got nearly the same line in San Jose for an entirely different issue, so
it&rsquo;s obviously part of their training. They realize that someone
isn&rsquo;t likely to invest $50,000 to $150,000 to press the point.
It&rsquo;s quite possible that he really wasn&rsquo;t the top guy (ever
been to a retail store where everyone had the title
&ldquo;Manager&rdquo;?), but I&rsquo;m not sure how far you could push this
other than asking to speak with his boss, and asking for the boss&rsquo;s
name and title if she purportedly wasn&rsquo;t available. You probably
could start a small tape recorder, indicate that you&rsquo;re recording the
conversation, and ask something to effect of, &ldquo;Are you telling me
that you think you can ignore federal law?&rsquo; Of course, at some point
he might subject you to endless inspection so that you miss your flight, or
even try to have you arrested for interfering with an inspector (as
happened in Indiana to a French woman who got frustrated with wanding and
removed her blouse).

I guess the regulation doesn&rsquo;t specifically state that the film must
be inspected without destroying it. With the visual inspection rationale,
an inspector could require that 35 mm or 120 film be removed from its
container for inspection. This simply is absurd, and courts usually avoid
interpretations that lead to absurd conclusions. Unfortunately, the cost
of calling the question is prohibitive. Perhaps the next thing is to call
someone at the TSA (if you ever can get through), specifically ask how the
regulation should be applied to non&ndash;X-ray inspection, and ask how one
should respond if given a line of BS such as Michael and I have been given.
The issue has come up often enough on photo fora that it would seem
reasonable to ask the question. Chances are, not much would come of the
conversation, but it would be interesting to see what happens. Or perhaps
it just isn&rsquo;t worth the hassle.

george jiri loun
2-May-2005, 02:35
You're right Jeff, Dave's citation was taken from Parmet's page. I also realised it when I searched for it. Never mind. As far as I'm concerned it's much easier for me to trust the tests rather than bother with the inspection staff. Thanks for your work.

2-May-2005, 09:45

"the machine will then increase the dose to penetrate it & one cannot be certain whether the larger exposure will damage the film. "

It is unfirtunate that you spew off mistruths that will further confuse people on a very confusing subject. The operator simply cannot "increase the dose", no way, no how. They also can see in a lead bag and see that there is film inside. I know, I have seen it. Let's stick to the facts in a touchy arena as this. THEY CANNOT UP THE DOSAGE. Check your information.

2-May-2005, 20:04

"Where were ALL the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 Mass Murder from? Above I posted from a nice news article or two about the problems on our border with Mexico and the article is years old. Yes, many of the folks from these areas are just fine. But what do you do with people who brag their kid blew himself up killing 'infidels'? You take them out first & stop the problem before it gets bigger."

"Every time we have an enemy in site, we dehumanize the bums. From 'Japs' to 'krauts' to 'gooks' to 'towelheads'. Too damn bad."


I won't provide a rebuttal on your follow-up comments but I will do one thing... I'll extend my sincere sympathies to you and your family!

And, I'm sure many other folks on this forum feel the same way as I do.

We now have a much better understanding of who you really are.

Have a nice life!

Steve Williams_812
3-May-2005, 05:26
Since the flying world has grown fearful of everyone, I fully expect the screening process to become more severe and "film" and "hand inspection" will eventually go away everywhere.

I have for a number of years been shipping everything via FedEx to and from my destinations in the United States---film, camera, lenses, tripod, the works. FedEx picks it up at my office, and I ship it to their facility at the destination airport usually. Breeze through the flight, get my rental car, and drive to the FedEx terminal and grab my stuff.

It began when I was trying to move 15 to 20 hard cases of video equipment through airports. A kid (8?) suggested in a terminal that I should go "FedEx". I thought about it and new it was a good idea.

The rest is history. Costs a bit more, but with all those great airfare deals I get off the web, what's a little shipping... and it's tax deductable. As they say in those credit card ads...."Cost of peace of mind? PRICELESS!


Tom Diekwisch
3-May-2005, 18:39
No George, it is unfortunate that you are making blanket statements based on biased sources.

3-May-2005, 18:58
The source of the problem was the rapid Federalization of the TSA Inspectors promoted by our stupid Congress post 9-11. Now we are saddled with thousands of stupid Federal employees with life-long jobs. They need to inspect your shoes and "visually inspect" your film and frisk little old ladies to justify their pathetic jobs.

It would be much easier to simply do a quick inspection like they did pre-9-11, and pull the dark swarthy males between 12-50 years old out of the line for further scutiny (myself included). It would also make sense to arm the pilots and put guards on the planes. And I especially like the idea of having the baggage inspectors fly on the flight they just finished inspecting.

Michael S. Briggs
4-May-2005, 07:09
We all feel strongly about our film, but some of the language in this thread is inappropriate. There is also much misinformation, such as implying that damage caused by a CTX machine means that the standard x-ray machines will also damage film.

The new scanning-type x-ray machines such as the CTX5000 mentioned by Dave are not normally used for inspecting carryon luggage.
They cause stronger x-ray exposures than the conventional x-ray machines and so a problem caused by a CTX machines doesn't mean that the standard x-ray machines will also cause problems.
The CTX machines use a scanning technology similar to CAT scanners to make a 3D image. This takes a larger x-ray exposure.
Everyone, including the manufacturer, agrees that this type of machine is likely to damage film, e.g., http://www.invision-tech.com/products/film.htm.
The CTX and imaging x-ray systems are commonly used for checked baggage, which is why unprocessed film should never be placed in checked baggage. In a few airports imaging x-ray machines are used for second stage inspection of carryon lugage.
All of the CTX machines that I have seen have carried prominent signs warning that film should be removed from the bags.
These signs are required in the US by law on all x-ray machines that can expose film to more than one milliroentgen
of radiation. http://www.invision-tech.com/products/ctx5500.htm has a photo showing what these machines look like. As Tim says, they are large and don't look like the older style of machine.

The US regulations on x-raying are available at a US government site: at 49 CFR - CHAPTER XII - PART 1544 (http://ecfrback.access.gpo.gov/otcgi/cfr/otfilter.cgi?DB=1&ACTION=View&QUERY=1544.211&RGN=BSEC&OP=and&QUERY=49&RGN=BTI&QUERY=5797&RGN=BSECCT&SUBSET=SUBSET&FROM=1&ITEM=1). I don't know if there are other regulations that override parts of this one, e.g., is there a law that says that inspectors have discretion to block any item that they deem dangerious or insufficiently inspected?

Kodak has an excellent document at http://www.kodak.com/global/en/service/tib/tib5201.shtml with advice and examples of film damaged by scanning x-ray machines.

4-May-2005, 10:35
Considering that Arab Muslims constitute the vast majority of modern hijackers and terrorists, I don't think we should cowtow to blanket political correctness everytime somebody disparges those who kill innocent people. If it is so awful for people to be embarassed by harsh words, or to have security scrutinize Arabs more than others, then the most effective thing for people to do is to stop terrorism. And while heightened security might prevent terrorism, only a shift in Arab Muslim beliefs and culture will STOP terrorism. We should be objective enough to say that outright, without getting shouted down by the people who place political correctness ahead of the basic right not to get blown up by an Arab Muslim terrorist.

Dan Fromm
4-May-2005, 11:31
Um, er, ah, Francisco, is the late T. McVeigh an arab muslim? I think not.

Is ETA an association of arab muslims? I think not.

Is the IRA another? I think not.

How about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam? Those lunatics in Uganda?

Take your short swarthy blinders off.

4-May-2005, 13:27
Bite me Dan.

4-May-2005, 17:57
"Bite me Dan."

Fran, fran, fran...great rebuttal! Very intellectually oriented I see!

Your argument is as weak as that of Dan S'.

BTW...aside from Dan Fromm's list, it occurs to me that there were a couple of Americans who were fighting with the terrorists over in Iraq, wasn't there?. As a matter of fact, didn't one of them open fire on some of his own mates? Or, something along those lines? I believe he's facing a court-martial, isn't he? [I could be off on the exact details here but I'm sure you know the story.]

So, it seems to me that your strategy (and Dan S.) is to "take them out first and stop the problem from getting bigger!"

Hmmm... I'd hate to be an American under yours and Dan S's regime! They'll be coming around to haul you away "JUST IN CASE YOU DO SOMETHING!" Didn't the Gestapo do this in Germany at one time? Or, the equivalent secret police in Russia? McVeigh IS an American and look, he's not even a "raghead!! Therefore, under your regime... ALL Americans could/would be put under strict scrutiny because it's impossible to tell WHICH AMERICAN IS/CAN POTENTIALLY BE A TERRORIST! Throw the Constitution out the door! Forget about civil liberties! It seems to me that your forefathers (and all the people who died in the World Wars) would be rolling over in their graves! After all, their fight for democracy has just been tossed into the garbage under your regime! ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! No, no... I mean it! :) It's ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! Then, after this has all been accomplished... we should take a look at the Japanese (because, they were against the US in WWII), or the Koreans, or the Vietnamese! Who next? Who next? Ha, after that, we should take away the rights of older people because they're draining society of its resources! When are YOU going to run for office? Gads, I'd vote for you straight-away, if not sooner!!!

I just can't see how your current government wouldn't enact legislation that would take your advice under consideration and put it into effect right-away!!!! Or.... is it that they recognize the flawed logic in what you're suggesting? Remember, your President came out in full support of the notion that NOT ALL ARAB MUSLIMS ARE TERRORISTS and that there are hard working US Arab Muslim residents that should be treated as equals to any other US citizen. I applaud George W. on that point!

Nobody here is saying that the guilty parties shouldn't go un-punished for their atrocities. NOBODY! In fact, they should be tried and, if found guilty, punished to the FULL extent of the law...capital punishment included! Those people who planned the 9/11 attacks are nothing more than cowards and murderers! No doubt in my books on this point... however, you're implying that people (Arab Muslims) should be deemed guilty first... just because they're Arab Muslims ("ragheads.") (I think this is called Racial Profiling, isn't it?) Then, it's up to them to prove they're innocent! Just persecute their a**es!!!

As for your statement, "...only a shift in Arab Muslim beliefs and culture will STOP terrorism."

I'm ABSOLUTELY sure that rounding them all up and scrutinizing them closely will most definitely change their beliefs and culture and STOP terrorism.... DEAD IN IT'S TRACKS, right???!!!!

fran.... take 2 seconds, take a deep breath and THINK about the comment that you've just made. Yup, I knew you'd get it sooner or later... it's a bloody inane statement, isn't it? If you don't get it... go back and re-read the above paragraphs!

Prejudism and scrutinization will most definitely change their attitudes and beliefs! And, I'm SURE they'll ALL be absolutely greatful for the humiliating experience that you're suggesting they be subjected to... just because they're Arab Muslims! BTW, they should also be greatful for receiving 36 lashes too... just for being an Arab Muslim! Yes, this will definitely endear them to your way of thinking!

"without getting shouted down by the people who place political correctness ahead of the basic right not to get blown up by an Arab Muslim terrorist.

--francisco, 2005-05-04 09:35:13"

No, neither Dan or I suggested this... we're simply saying that NOT ALL ARAB MUSLIMS ARE TERRORISTS AND NOT ALL TERRORISTS ARE ARAB MUSLIMS. Again, I'm sure there are Arab Muslim Americans who are working diligently in all levels of your government, defense forces, etc to protect the safety of your citizens (and homeland) against terrorism (as they should.) We're simply stating that you CANNOT tar and feather every Arab Muslim as a terrorist... or potential terrorist because of their family backgrounds.

We're NOT shouting you down... it's just that responding to the posted comments is like shooting ducks in a pond. It's so easy to recognize and follow your thought patterns and illogical arguments on this subject. However, when a logical argument is put forward... you respond by saying, "Bite me Dan." I'm sure that a pre-schooler would have rebutted Dan's comment with a, "Point well-taken!" because Dan F's comment are irrefutable! There IS NO argument... period!

Enough said! Before you say it to me, fran... I'll say it on your behalf:

"Bite me Henry"


Have a wonderful life fran! :)

Dan F... thank you for making your point. Some people just don't get it!


I certainly do apologize for taking your original thread OT... I just couldn't resist shooting all those ducks in a pond (figuratively speaking!) :) It would have been great fun had the topic not been so serious!


Dan Fromm
4-May-2005, 18:40
Thank you, Chico, for the kind word.

All kidding aside, the big risk with profiling, especially when the item (most cancers, bomb-toting anarchist, knife-toting terrorist, ... ) sought is rare is that the vast majority of "positives" profiling models generate are false. This isn't a horrible problem when it sends us junk mail for long distance carriers, credit cards, ... , but it is a horrible problem when it leads to abusing people.

Not everyone agrees, but I think the cost of our anti-terrorism efforts far exceeds the benefits. I've pretty much stopped flying with photographic equipment because of TSA. TSA is a joke in very poor taste. Ineffective, expensive, obnoxious. And we're stuck with it.

Back in the bad old days, as in 1992, I flew to Paraguay with a case of 35 mm cameras and lenses and another of S8 cameras and lenses for them as hand baggage. Carried 'em on board, also a lot of film. I wore a battery belt for the Omni-Lite that was packed in one of my suitcases. The security screeners at PHL didn't know what to make of the battery belt, so sent for their chief. It turned out that his day job was doing SFX for low-budget sci-fi movies. So we had a nice discussion about my home-made battery belt -- he admired it -- and about the difficulties of shoestring cinematography. Now THERE was an intelligent and informed and polite screening.



Tom Diekwisch
4-May-2005, 19:13
Hi Michael,

I did mean standard X-ray machines for passenger luggage screeens. The airports were Logan and somewhere in Florida and the same thing return.

Michael S. Briggs
4-May-2005, 19:35
Tom, the person who specifically mentioned the machine that damaged his film was Dave -- a CTX5000. A bad experience with one of these machines isn't evidence that the non-CAT-scan machines will damage film. Logan also has similar machines. Are you sure that your film didn't go through one of these CAT-scan type machines? When you say "passenger luggage", do you mean carryon or checked? You mention "spotty fogging" -- this sounds more like the damage that a CAT-scan type x-ray machine would do, since they use a relatively narrow beam. Does your damaged film look like any of the examples in the Kodak article, http://www.kodak.com/global/en/service/tib/tib5201.shtml?

Tom Diekwisch
4-May-2005, 21:44
Thanks, Michael, I did mean carry-on and I would never have film in checked luggage. And no, it didn't resemble examples on the web site you mentioned. It was more spotty in certain regions of the film than in others. It was more foggy and diffuse than the lines on the web site you quoted. Three films almost totally unusable. Some great shots. Irreplaceable. Embarrassing.

5-May-2005, 05:39
Typical replies - interjecting Tim McVeigh, the IRA, etc. into a war against Islamic extremists. Insulting my intelligence. Not making any real suggestions for improving things, other than acknowledging that the TSA is a joke and making puseduo-scienctific claims that profiling Arab-Muslims doesn't work. And that is why, out of political correctness, we have stupid TSA rules and a high likelihood that the next terrorist attack will also be caused by - you guessed right - Arab-Muslims.

Munch, munch, munch, bite me

Dan Fromm
5-May-2005, 07:12
Chico, its time for a cold shower. And then learn who and what you're discussing with. Its bad form, also bad luck, to rant at strangers.

TSA could, if it wanted, adopt the practices of whoever handles security for El Al.

I earn part of my living by building targeting models. One can sometimes make more money by using a good one than by using none, but that doesn't mean they discriminate very well. Terrorists are quite rare, fortunately, except in Iraq, and spotting them isn't easy.

I'm not sure why we put so much emphasis on terrorist outrages that involve commercial aircraft. Perhaps another example of preparing to fight the last war. And I don't understand why we have so few trash bin, car, and truck bombings. Or why we have so few outrages that involve railroads. Many are the ways to disrupt and alarm.

5-May-2005, 09:41
And El Al doesn't scutinize its Muslim passengers more than its Jewish ones?

I gotta bridge for you!

I agree that our government fails to forecast what an intelligent terrorist would do, and that it is likely not to be a repeat of a previous techniques. However, if I were a terrorist, posing as a bumbling photographer with lots of specialized gear would be a fine way to sneak contraband onboard, or get myself into an optimal location.

Airline security has evolved into being a show of force meant to inspire confidence in the passengers. They realize that they can't not stop a determined terrorist from doing something, without creating a complete police state. That's why changing the Islamic culture is ultimately the key to reducing the threat. History has shown that using moderate and measured force, as described in Caleb Carr's treatise, "The Lessons of Terror : A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again" is our best defense against terrorism. It won't happen overnight, but by the Allies persevering in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has already made a positive difference.

Bottom line for travelling? I'm less worried about my film getting x-rayed than I am looking at that scruffy Richard Reid type of fellow (the British shoe bomber) sitting two rows back. I ain't getting on a plane with a bunch of young male Arabs, or worse, a couple of Anglo converts, in spite of all the political correctness in the world.

tim atherton
5-May-2005, 11:45
'History has shown that using moderate and measured force, as described in Caleb Carr's treatise, "The Lessons of Terror : A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again" is our best defense against terrorism. It won't happen overnight, but by the Allies persevering in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has already made a positive difference. '

I've read it - he normally writes fiction and should stick to it. First, ignoring Carr's "terrorism through the ages for now" terrorism has actually succeed many times even in recent history (ask the Israeli's, people of Eire [on Collins etc Carr is seriously mistaken in many places] or the N. Irish Republicans for a few)

(and I write this as someone who spent his formative years fighting a counter-terror war and many years since studying the phenomenon of 20th century terrorism)

Secondly Iraq had little or nothing to do with international terrorism before its recent invasion, especially compared to several other states (including a number of US "allies"). Though one effect of the Iraq invasion has probably been to increase the terrorism risk to the US.

Finally, some of the most effective forms of counter-terrorism have been brutally effective military and para-military operations of the sort we haven't seen in the current climate (the British are past masters at this -they won some, they lost some). "Moderate and measured force" has sometimes succeeded, but just as often failed. The right solution for the right time is needed. More often than not, that has included seismic shifts in foreign and domestic policy as it has military and police actions (especially for colonial and neo-colonial powers - often the only way they have won is by letting go).

About 95% of current airport security practices in N America is about propoganda for the civilians on the "home front" (akin to the WWII collecting of pots and pans to help the war effort and build Spitfires - and exercise in morale building).

Totally OT...

Mike Derr
30-May-2005, 09:44
Sec. 108.17 Use of X-ray systems. (Excerpt)
(e) No certificate holder may use an X-ray system to inspect carry-on or
checked articles unless a sign is posted in a conspicuous place at the
screening station and on the X-ray system which notifies passengers that
such items are being inspected by an X-ray and advises them to remove all
X-ray, scientific, and high-speed film from carry-on and checked articles
before inspection. This sign shall also advise passengers that they may
request that an inspection be made of their photographic equipment and film
packages without exposure to an X-ray system. If the X-ray system exposes
any carry-on or checked articles to more than 1 milliroentgen during the
inspection, the certificate holder shall post a sign which advises passengers
to remove film of all kinds from their articles before inspection.
If requested by passengers, their photographic equipment and film
packages shall be inspected without exposure to an X-ray system.

Jeff Conrad
30-May-2005, 15:49

14 CFR 108.17(e) was superceded by 49 CFR 1544.211(e)(4), as mentioned
above. Although the wording is nearly the same, it probably would help to
have the correct citation when negotiating with a TSA inspector.