Advice for photographers
Independent tests undertaken by the British Photographers' Liaison Committee (BPLC), to establish the full and exact details of any potential film damage caused by baggage screening machines at airports, have given the all-clear to current hand-luggage x-ray inspection systems installed at Heathrow.
The findings confirm our previous recommendations to passengers, that they should carry unprocessed film in their hand-luggage not packed in hold (checked-in) luggage. The findings confirm that hand-luggage security scanning machinery is safe for all normal film types (up to and including ISO 400)*.
Current digital camera storage media can also safely be examined by these x-ray machines without suffering ill effects.
Specialist film (ISO 800 and above) under exceptional circumstances, when passed more than eight times through the hand-luggage security scanning machines, can be affected. However, the nature of the change occurring is barely noticeable to the naked eye and indeed does not become clearly visible until film is exposed around 32 times.
We therefore continue to recommend that airline passengers carry all normal, undeveloped film in their hand-luggage, not in their hold (checked-in) luggage.
We also advise that special arrangements can be made for photographers carrying professional film (ISO 800 and above) by prior arrangement with their airline or airport.
Hand search requests for professional film will normally be accommodated, but the final decision in all individual cases will always rest with the on-duty security supervisor.
The results reported are in the context of standard film use. Professional photographers requiring more detailed information should refer in the first place to their own photographic association or organisation, or the BPLC on +44 (0)20 7739 6669.
* These films will be visually unaffected by up to eight and in some cases 32 passes through the hand-luggage x-ray machines. Processed film can be x-rayed virtually without limit, without suffering any ill effects whatsoever from these machines.