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Film and lead lined bags

Paul Hoyt , Oct 09, 2006; 01:43 a.m.

A number of years ago I bought several lead lined bags to protect my film when flying. I usually have been able to request a hand inspection but in the rare instance I am forced to send my film through the carry-on x-ray, the lead lined bags must be effective because my bag is pulled from the queue and a hand inspection ensues. This year my wife and I had the misfortune to fly to Great Britain on August 10. The first day of no carry-on items, virtually everything had to be sent through the super x-ray machine. I was traveling with 4X5 Tri-X and my wife had 30 rolls of 35mm Kodachrome 64. When we reminded British Airways that they tell people NOT to pack any film with checked luggage, we were told we could not under any circumstances bring the film into the cabin of the airplane. I did have 5 large lead lined bags and all of our film fit into the bags. My camera, our film and 4 of our 6 bags did not reach us for 9 days of our vacation. The films (bags) were x-rayed several times in the subsequent foul-up. My wife did have her camera, but color slide film is almost non-existent in England and Scotland. I never saw 4X5 sheet film in the various camera stores we were in to buy 35mm film. The return flight was just the same; all film had to be sent in super x-rayed checked luggage. Not a single 4X5 negative or 35mm slide was damaged. I highly recommend lead lined bags to protection film in this uncertain era of x- rays and air travel.

Paul

Responses

Richard Trochlil , Oct 09, 2006; 11:16 a.m.

Given the current situation, it has always seemed to me that the presence of a lead-lined bag in checked luggage would raise red flags all over the place, your luggage would be dismantled and all kinds of bad things happen to your possessions.

Is it possible that they can recognize the film through the bag? Otherwise, how do they know what is in it?

Wolf Rainer Schmalfuss , Oct 09, 2006; 12:22 p.m.

Hello Paul,

I can not recommend to use any of these lead bags, to protect the films from X-ray checks. The machine is increasing automatically its X-ray density, because there is something in the luggage which cannot be identified! Asked kindly for hand checkings, that mostly works with the people at the gate. This is the best method to avoid problems!

Regards

Terence Spross , Oct 09, 2006; 10:52 p.m.

The following are variables around the world: official procedures, actual procedures, x-ray machine sensitivity, different threat levels when you happen to be in the terminal. Individual incompetence (example: a hand inspector opening a bulk film container in room light even though procedure allowed use of a nearby inspection- chaniging bag), Inattentivity: allowing an opague lead bag to pass without scrutiny. Older machines (stronger rays)substituted for newer machines occationally due to machine failures or the need for additional inspections. Lead bags of various thicknesses, some only block a little. Accidents can happen also.

It's film roulette! I'm glad your experience was OK, for most people it is. Most reported vacation film damage is not x-ray, it isually is excessive film temperature, fogging in camera, etc. But it does hapen occationally. Be polite, label film boldly and accurately to help with proper handleing .

Craig Cooper , Oct 10, 2006; 12:18 a.m.

For what its worth I have seen the so called lead lined bags go through hand checked luggage xrays with film in it and the contents HAVE been identifiable on the screen almost everytime. I have seen empty lead lined film bags go through hand checked luggage xray and has created an unidentifiable black area and I was subsequently asked to show what this was. No one believed the bag was the offending item until I requested they xrayed just the bag to see how it displayed on screen.

David Stanton , Oct 10, 2006; 12:55 a.m.

For what it is worth, I consistently take film in lead bags in my carry on luggage. I never have had a problem, either with the film fogging or with anyone questioning me on the contents of the bag. I have never asked for hand inspection. I have never had problems. Dave

Larry Dressler , Oct 10, 2006; 02:59 a.m.

Want to set off the Powers that be to be? Put a block of hard cheese in a lead bag. I used to work for the TSA and if we could not see something or if it looked weird... I was always nice to phothographers... but then again I was not the only person there. We had the power to turn up the amount of radiation.... it was kept at about 2-3 but the dial went to 10. we were allowed to take it to 6 Without a supervisor allowing it... But that did happen with a note that said.. if in doubt go without her word.

I am glad i don't fly in anything larger than a Gulf StreamIV these days....

Larry

Paul Hoyt , Oct 10, 2006; 07:42 p.m.

Just to clarify, I have never had a probelm with carry-on luggage. If the TSA agent will not take my film before the x-ray machine, into the lead lined bag it goes and then the bag is diverted for hand inspection. The lead lined bags were used in this case with checked luggage, where the sign at drop-off says do not send film in your checked luggage. Unfortunately this was during a "code red" and we boarded the air plane in our underware and a see through zip lock bag containing our passports. Books were not allowed, loose papers were not allowed, pens were not allowed, glasses were permitted but glasses cases were not allowed. Prescription medicine was permitted, but a lot of liquid prescription medicine was confiscated at the boarding gate. When the flight crew was told they must comply with the above regulations, they refused to board the plane and the Captain forced BA to backdown for the flight crew. I understand this was a special situation and I feel the lead lined bags saved our film from x-ray damage. But at least I will feel confident that my film will be protected if this happens to me again, and the bags are cheap insurance since film is not readily available anymore.

Paul

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