X-ray Film Exposure

New Postal Service and Increased Airport Scanning Procedures Fog Photographic Film... 

In an effort to make the skies and United States mail safer after the tragic events of September 11th, new and increased scanning procedures have been put in place by both the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the airline industry. Unfortunately, these recent changes put photographic film at risk of fogging and exposure. 

In airports around the country, the use of baggage scanners to detect explosive devices has been increased. Because of its silver content and metal canisters, photographic film, especially large packages or bundles of film, appears particularly suspect. Unfortunately, the scanners are fogging undeveloped film left in checked baggage. Unlike the airport x-ray equipment of the past, which had little or no effect on unprocessed film, the International Imaging Industry Association, Inc. has tested these scanners at the request of the FAA and determined they have the potential to fog both unprocessed color and black and white film. Processed film is unaffected.

As of October 27th, the USPS has begun purchasing electron beam scanning equipment for use in sterilizing mail and eliminating any possible exposure to anthrax. This electron beam technology will fully expose undeveloped film as if it were exposed to sunlight. At this time, we do not have complete information regarding the extent to which these scanners will be used or when the USPS will begin using them. While we applaud the FAA, airline industry and USPS in their efforts to ensure that checked baggage and mail are safe, we also realize that your pictures are very important to you and want to do all we can to see that your photographic memories are preserved. We offer the following suggestions to help you avoid damage to your film from airline scanners. We do not currently have information regarding any safeguards that may be taken to protect film sent via the USPS. Make sure there is no unprocessed film in your checked baggage. Carry your undeveloped film with you as carry-on baggage and ask for hand inspection whenever possible. Place film in a separate mesh or clear plastic bag for easy identification by airport security. When carrying large amounts of unprocessed film, contact the airline prior to your flight to arrange for a special baggage inspection. When possible, send your film via a cargo carrier that will certify that the film will not be x-rayed. The FAA is currently working on guidelines with respect to this situation. * At some airports, passengers may be randomly selected from the carry-on baggage check line and their carry-on luggage scanned as checked baggage. Please be aware that this scan will fog film. If you are asked to step into another line, remove your film from your carry-on baggage. 

In time, security measures at airports may increase, and stronger scanners may be used to scan even carry-on baggage. Be aware of the signs in the airport; most carry-on baggage scanners, at this time, will be marked as "Film Safe" if they will not damage your film.

Generally speaking scanning technology does not damages magnetic material so your digital camera, computer, game system, etc. with magnetic media can safely be scanned. The scanning systems can be changed and updated. It is recommended that you consult with your airport for what items can be safely taken aboard the plane.

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