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How can I protect my film from security screening x-rays?

Dear Anita,

As an avid semi-professional photographer, I usually carry 20 to 40 rolls of odachrome 64 on international trips. How safe will that film be when it goes through the new security devices? If I put it in lead-lined bags, will the large, bulky packages trigger an alarm, or will the x-rays simply be zapped up to higher intensity to see what's in them? I am traveling to Norway this summer for two months, so I need to know what my options are. Thanks for your help.

Frederick G.
Northfield, MN
 

Dear Frederick,

As a fellow photography enthusiast, I know how precious film is. Film manufacturers are warning photographers that the new enhanced screening procedures for carry-on and checked baggage are capable of damaging unexposed film.

For example, the new CTX-5000 security scanners send high dosage CAT scan-like beams through luggage to better identify dense masses. This scanning beam can leave a stripe or line on slide, print, and motion picture film that remains after the film is developed, even after just one pass through the equipment.

If you want to check your film, you can use the protective lead pouches, which will withstand high levels of x-rays. However, this may not be enough protection as the screening equipment could do even higher intensity scans that could damage the film. My best advice is that you request a hand inspection of your film. Just keep in mind that because you will be carrying so much film, it may take extra time for security personnel to go through it all. Consider getting to the airport well in advance of your departure.

I hope I've been helpful. Happy travels!

Anita Dunham-Potter

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