Traveling With Hazmat … What Will and Won’t Fly

As a frequent traveler, for both business and pleasure, I am often passing though airport security checkpoints before whisking off to my final destination. Because of the industry I am in, I always seem to notice things that most travelers don’t. Most passengers tend to know the rules regarding carry on liquids. They usually know that they need to take off shoes and remove laptops from bags before x-ray screening. While waiting in line, I start thinking about how many of them really understand how many hazardous materials we may be taking on vacation with us and that there are additional rules for carrying them on aircraft.

Traveling with HazMatDuring my most recent trip, I noticed a sign while in the queue for the security checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. It seemed odd to me that they would choose to display this sign in a passenger area. While the information provided on the sign is accurate and useful, it is not appropriate for the audience it is reaching. Those passengers who actually stop to read the sign will likely think it does not apply to them because they are not traveling with packages as pictured. In my opinion, a more effective sign for this location would warn that lithium batteries that are used with personal electronics can start fires if they are dropped or improperly charged. Showing photos of laptops, cellphones, e-cigarettes, and spare batteries would be more applicable than labeled shipping cartons.

When checking in for a flight in the US, passengers must acknowledge that they are not carrying any hazardous materials in their luggage. The acknowledgement usually gives a few basic examples, but again I wonder if people really understand what they are saying. The FAA has a webpage (click here) that details all of the possible hazardous materials and which ones can go in check baggage, carry-on baggage, both, or not at all. As I was scrolling though the list, I realized that I had inadvertently violated the rules with one item that I keep in my toiletry bag … anti-static aerosol spray! I have long hair so I usually carry a travel size container of the spray with me to deal with flyaway hair due to excessive static. I had no idea it was on the forbidden list until I already the statement “Aerosol laundry products do not qualify for the toiletry article exception, so if they are flammable they are forbidden in carry-on and checked baggage.” It does not qualify as a toiletry item because it does not touch your body when you use it.

Thanks to my research for this blog, I learned something new today. I will now be going through my pre-packed toiletry bag to make sure I don’t have any other forbidden materials. I hope more people become aware of the items on the list and help to make travel a little bit safer for all of us! As the FAA says on their page … When in doubt, leave it out!

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