Aircraft landing
The new recommendations were released on Friday (Pic:Glenn Beltz/Flickr)

Kodak Alaris has updated its film care and storage recommendations, confirming the recent warning that new CT scanners used to screen hand luggage in airports can damage unprocessed film.

Los Angeles-based Freestyle Photographic Supplies posted on Instagram of a new hand luggage CT scanner at Los Angeles’ LAX, warning that the more powerful scanner could damage film and urging photographers to ask for a handcheck.

On Friday, Kodak Alaris updated its “Storage and Care of Kodak Photographic Materials” resources – the PDF can be accessed here. The PDF contains new recommendations about handchecks. Kosmo Foto was sent the updated PDF by a Kodak Alaris representative shortly after it was published on Friday (25 October).

The PDF reads: “X-rays can fog unprocessed film. When you travel by commercial airline, your checked luggage is commonly subjected to x-ray examination by a CT (Computed Tomography) scanner.

Instagram post on scanner (Pic: Freestyle Photographic Supplies/Instagram)
The post from Freestyle showing the new scanner (Pic: Freestyle Photographic Supplies/Instagram)

“Many airport security departments are now investing in additional CT scanners for carry-on bags, with a goal of eventually having the machines at every security checkpoint. To avoid any danger of fogging unprocessed film, always hand-carry your film – including loaded cameras – and always request a visual inspection at the airport security check point.”

The guide also lists the following tips:

  • Processed film is not affected by x-rays
  • The traditional door frame walk-through and hand-held metal detectors used to check passengers are not x-ray devices and do not affect film
  • Millimetre wave body scanners use radio waves, and produce no ionising radiation
  • Sometimes mailed packages are also x-rayed; if you include unprocessed film in a package, label the package “Undeveloped Photographic Film. Please Do Not X-Ray.” Film mailed in clearly marked processing mailers sold by photofinishers is usually not subjected to x-ray inspection.

CT scanners have already been used to scan hold luggage since September 2001. These much more powerful x-rays damage film.

The US’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines already explicitly state that photographers should carry their film in their hand luggage and ask for a hand inspection at security checkpoints.

However, in many European airports, photographers are refused handchecks and told to put film through the hand luggage scanners. While the current x-ray scanners are low-dose and unlikely to damage film – even after multiple scans – the new scanners are likely to be introduced in the future.

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James Lane
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James Lane

Well, I’m fucked as I live in Europe

Dave Walker
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Dave Walker

Thanks for the tip – I’m off to the USA via Boston on Sunday and would have destroyed all my film! Disaster averted!