DVDs Found Safe In Both Carry-On And Checked Baggage, Say New Tests By I3A And TSA

The latest in a series of tests on the impact of airport security equipment on imaging devices and media shows that neither DVDs nor DVD players are damaged by X-ray scanners or metal-detector wands. The recent tests of scanner models currently in use in the U.S. transportation industry were jointly conducted by the International Imaging Industry Association (I3A), the leading global association for the imaging industry, and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

These findings mean that, like digital cameras and their image storage media, DVDs and DVD players can travel safely in either checked or carry-on bags. More care is needed for cameras with film, however, as the X-ray scanners for both checked and carry-on luggage can fog exposed and unexposed undeveloped film.

The tests took place in May, 2005 at the TSA Security Laboratory in Atlantic City, N.J. Four identical DVD players were used: one player was dedicated to each of the three scanner models tested, and one player was held out as a control and not scanned. A prerecorded DVD movie was included in each of the players throughout the testing (the same title in all four players). The tested DVD players each made 20 passes through the machines, and one of the three was also scanned by a hand-held metal-detector wand.

At the end of the scanning, the DVDs were played in all four devices; the movies appeared identical, and no apparent adverse effect on any of the DVD players was found. Although this was a narrow test in the number of brands of DVD players evaluated, it was broad in the extent of exposure through three separate scanners. Given the results, it appears unlikely that any DVD players will sustain damage from the energy emitted from the security devices. Complete details on the tested devices, test protocols and results can be downloaded from http://www.i3a.org/itip.html.

The imaging device and media test program is an ongoing initiative of I3A's Integrity in Transportation of Imaging Products (ITIP) Committee, which is composed of representatives from Agfa Corporation, Eastman Kodak Company, Ferrania Imaging Technologies, Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd., Hewlett Packard Company, Ilford Imaging Group, Konica Minolta Photo Imaging, Photo Marketing Association International, Photo-Sensitized Materials Manufacturers Association and Sony Electronics.

ITIP has conducted extensive tests over a period of many years to assess the effects of security scanning on digital imaging devices and media, where no potential for damage was found, and on film products. Test results to date indicate that the X-ray scanners used for screening carry-on bags will damage high-speed film (ISO 800 or greater) quickly. The effect is cumulative: the more passes, the more the film is harmed. For lower-speed film, the majority of damage has been reported when film has undergone more than five passes through X-ray machines.

Accordingly, I3A advises travelers to request hand inspection of their high-speed (ISO 800 or greater) film products, which is explicitly permitted by law. Hand inspection of lower speed film is recommended only when the film has already been subjected to five trips through X-ray scanners. The screening machines used to screen checked baggage and some cargo will damage all film, regardless of speed. Therefore, I3A and the TSA both advise travelers to carry their film with them and never put it in checked bags.

To help make sure the hand inspection service is consistently available, ITIP has enlisted I3A members in an ongoing effort to gather information on implementation of airport film warnings and advisory signage in U.S. airports; the collected reports are summarized and forwarded to TSA.

When the TSA was established in 2001, I3A formed the ITIP Committee to work with TSA to address the issues arising from the effects on imaging products in transit of increased security measures in transportation. In December 2002, I3A and TSA jointly issued guidelines to help travelers protect their film and cameras from security scanning equipment. ITIP's charter also includes advising authorities specifying and implementing new postal sanitization equipment about its effects on imaging materials and how to protect those materials from damage. I3A's research, reports and guidelines are available to the public at no charge on its Web site, www.i3a.org.