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Thread: How to clean my bag - failing airport explosives trace detection

  1. #1
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    How to clean my bag - failing airport explosives trace detection

    Hi guys, I work on the mines and think my Synapse 19 must have come into contact with some explosives at some point. The past 3 times I have been randomly selected for a trace explosives test going through security at the airport, its failed for something called "HMX-60" I think.

    So far, all I have done is washed it in mild soapy water as per the care instructions tag, although that has not fixed it, any other suggestions?

    cheers

  2. #2
    Registered User Ilkyway's Avatar
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    It feels weird to read about how to cover/remove the smell of explosives. I would think that having two bags (one for work and one for travel) would be best at this line of work.

    Sorry if I sound paranoid but would not a bad person look for exactly this info? So we discuss it here, mousy gets the Bag clean again (which is a good thing for certain) and the info stays here for everyone to read.

    Sorry if this is crazy-talk.
    Ilkyway

  3. #3
    Registered User vivelly's Avatar
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    good point Ilkyway..:-)

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    Ok, I can't go into specifics here, but some of those detection equipment are advanced enough to detect particles even after cleaning.
    So I guess this might reassure llkyway some, but it's probably bad news to mousey.
    So, like llkyway, I think getting a 2nd bag would be the best solution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkyway View Post
    It feels weird to read about how to cover/remove the smell of explosives. I would think that having two bags (one for work and one for travel) would be best at this line of work.

    Sorry if I sound paranoid but would not a bad person look for exactly this info? So we discuss it here, mousy gets the Bag clean again (which is a good thing for certain) and the info stays here for everyone to read.

    Sorry if this is crazy-talk.
    Ilkyway
    Work is alot of my travel, I fly in and out of most mine sites I work at. If I can't take this bag on flights then it is more or less junk to me which would suck considering it is such as nice bag and is only 4 months old. I guess I'll have to try washing it again a few more times.

  6. #6
    Registered User Ilkyway's Avatar
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    How do your colleagues cope with this kind of problem?

  7. #7
    Registered User bchaplin's Avatar
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    Maybe just carry some ID that indicates your line of work, for explanatory purposes? You may end up getting your bag checked on a regular basis...
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    If you’re getting pulled aside for an additional check and allowed to continue it may just be something you have to accept as part of the job. Are you allowed to board after the check?
    Ilkyway likes this.

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    Is there some kind of TSA clearance you can apply for?

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    I wouldn't bother with a note. Back when the radiation-based scanners were being used, my doctor gave me a nice official note saying that because of my medical exposure to radiation, I shouldn't go through the scanner but instead through the walk-through metal detector. I did try to use it a couple of times, but was told that they ignore any such things since anyone can forge a letter.

    More washing might help, but it's possible given your job that you're re-contaminating the bag as long as it is both a work and travel bag. If that isn't happening, then I'd try re-washing a few more times. If it's a tiny trace contamination, then at some point it may fall below detection levels.

    I wouldn't worry too much about discussing this problem online. Anyone sophisticated enough to be making explosives is aware that there are detectors in use at airports, and almost certainly has heard of washing machines, too. So we aren't giving away any secrets in suggesting more washing...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkyway View Post
    How do your colleagues cope with this kind of problem?
    None of my colleagues have actually had this issue that I know of

    Quote Originally Posted by BarryLee View Post
    If you’re getting pulled aside for an additional check and allowed to continue it may just be something you have to accept as part of the job. Are you allowed to board after the check?
    I'm getting allowed through, but not before being patted down and having my bag emptied and searched, which takes about 15 minutes each time. However that is also only on a smallish domestic flight, where I have proof I'm travelling to a mine site. I can imagine it would be slightly more painful If I were say boarding an international flight back from a holiday in America (as I would like to do around ~feb/march next year)

    Quote Originally Posted by flitcraft View Post
    More washing might help, but it's possible given your job that you're re-contaminating the bag as long as it is both a work and travel bag. If that isn't happening, then I'd try re-washing a few more times. If it's a tiny trace contamination, then at some point it may fall below detection levels.
    Hopefully it will help, as mentioned above none of my work colleagues have had this issue so I would think that any tiny trace concentrations that occur under normal circumstances would not get detected, so maybe I can get my bag down to below the cutoff point by washing it a few more times.

  12. #12
    Registered User monkeylady's Avatar
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    We had a similar experience on our way to Panama from Quito, Ecuador. We had to check bags, no choice. A drug enforcement officer zeroed in on Mr. Monkeylady's rollie because he smelled cocaine. Mr. Monkeylady had forgotten to remove two coca teabags before our flight. They are a folk remedy for altitude sickness, which I had in spades. The teabags were legal! But even after they were removed and disposed of, his bag still trips the noses of drug enforcement. And I don't know how washable his rollie is.
    The stockpile keeps growing...I'm in serious trouble.

  13. #13
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    mousey,

    Water-based cleaning probably isn't going to do the trick. OSHA says HMX is soluble in acetone. Unfortunately, acetone will likely damage your bag. Isopropanol probably won't, and it might dissolve the residue since it is somewhat similar to acetone chemically. If it were me, I would buy a jug of 70% or greater isopropanol and test it on a scrap of nylon fabric. If all goes well, rinse the bag well in the isopropanol and see what happens next time you fly.

    Good luck,
    CDT

    http://www.osha.gov/dts/sltc/methods...2032/2032.html
    Amyl versus Isopropyl Alcohol

  14. #14
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    An Internet search quickly turns up that "taggants" are often what is detected, not the explosive material itself. There is an international convention on tagging of (plastic) explosives.

    DMDNB is the one apparently commonly used in the US. It is an organic compound that can be detected at very low levels. It is very poorly soluble in water, so washing in water may take you a very, very, very long time.

    As you might imagine, the taggants selected are very easy to transfer to other things, and very difficult to remove.

    Even if you purchased a new bag and kept it sealed up in a impermeable bag when on site, you might have enough of the taggant on your hands to transfer to the bag. The objective of tagging the explosives is to identify individuals that have been in places where explosives are handled, after all!

    You might want to see if you can apply to and be accepted to the TSA pre-check program.


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