UPDATE: New film care recommendations from Kodak Alaris confirm the new scanners can damage film. Read Kosmo Foto’s story.
If you’re flying through US airports with film soon, be aware – the new hand luggage scanners coming into service could destroy unprocessed film after just one scan.
Los Angeles photography merchant Freestyle Photographic Supplies posted an image of the new CT scanners at LAX Airport on Saturday (19 October), warning film photographers to request a hand search rather than let their film go through.
The post read: “Watch out for these machines at the airports. It’s a CAT scan and will absolutely destroy any film in a second. The equivalent of putting your film through the old scanners about a thousand times. Lead bags won’t save you.
“The nice #TSA agents at #LAX had no problem with a handcheck and seemed to be informed that this is no joke.”
Freestyle said in the post that the new scanners had been installed at LAX this month.
Freestyle’s warning is backed up by information on film producer Kodak’s own page for those travelling with film, (though this warning is from the early 2000s).
It reads: “There are two types of higher-dose scanners. The first type is similar to a hospital CAT scan and uses a low-dose scan followed by a higher-dose scan on specific areas of the baggage. The second type gives a high-dose, full bag scan on the first pass, damaging the film immediately.
“Tests indicate that there is significant fogging of unprocessed film when the film sustains a direct hit by either of the different scanner’s high-intensity X-ray beam. Faster films show a more dense fog.”
A statement from the TSA says:
Kosmo Foto spoke to Making Kodak Film author Robert Shanebrook about the new scanners. He said:
On the TSA’s own website, the agency says the scanners have been unveiled in the following locations:
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
- Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
- Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
- Houston Hobby Airport (HOU)
- Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- Logan International Airport (BOS)
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- Miami International Airport (MIA)
- Oakland International Airport (OAK)
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
- Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
- St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)
- Tampa International Airport (TPA)
- Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)
The scanners, which are also being installed in other airports across the use, subject the film to a similarly strong dose of x-rays to those used to check hold luggage. As many photography resources have detailed, the scanners in use since the September 2001 attacks will fog almost any film they come into contact with.
The most recent models of non-CT hand luggage scanners in use in most airports are much kinder with film, yielding no discernible results even after a dozen or more scans.
However, more airports are likely to take onboard the new CT scanners because they scan luggage faster – leading to faster queueing at security.
It’s worth noting, however, that no x-rays will damage film if it has already been processed, so any processed slides or negatives can safely go through the new scanners.
Have you had any experience with the new scanners? Has your film been fogged? Any tips on getting film through undamaged at particular airports? Please leave a comment below.
Support Kosmo Foto
Keep Kosmo Foto free to read by subscribing on Patreon for as little as $1 month, or make a one-off payment via Ko-Fi. All your donations really help.