Common Lotion Ingredient Sets Off Explosives Screening at Airport

Glycerin can cause false positive during screening

By Ben Russell
|  Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013  |  Updated 4:31 PM CDT
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Lotion is causing concern with TSA screeners. An NBC 5 employee was stopped at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday after glycerin, an ingredient found in many lotions, triggered security scanners.

Ben Russell, NBC 5 News

Lotion is causing concern with TSA screeners. An NBC 5 employee was stopped at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday after glycerin, an ingredient found in many lotions, triggered security scanners.

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A common ingredient found in beauty products can trigger a false positive with airport security, leading screeners to believe you could have been building a bomb.

Glycerin, an ingredient in many lotions and other beauty products, has been known to alert the Transportation Security Administration's Explosives Trace Detection technology. A TSA spokesperson told NBC 5 it is a "not uncommon problem."

The technology "must be sensitive enough to detect even the slightest presence of explosives on a passenger or a piece of luggage," TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein said. "Due to this sensitivity, on occasion, commonly used items can render a false positive alarm during screening."

An NBC 5 employee who went through security Thursday morning at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was pulled aside after passing through the full-body scanner. She said a screener gave her a light pat-down and swiped her hands. The swab tested positive for explosive material, she said.

The TSA screener asked the NBC 5 employee if she recently had used lotion, and she told the screener she had. The screener then took her into a separate room, where her carry-on bag was emptied and her belongings were checked and swabbed.

A screener again asked about the lotion, and the NBC 5 employee showed the product to the screener.

Several travelers at DFW Airport say they have never heard about the phenomenon.

"No, and I use a lot of lotion so, no, I haven't heard that," Wanda Jeffries-Hobbs said.

"That would definitely be a surprise if you get up to the front and, all of a sudden, something like that happened," Greg Davenport said.

"That's crazy," Tony Yodice said. "I won't moisturize before I go; that's all there is to it."

The TSA said it is unlikely that lotion will trigger a false positive for explosives as long as you do not apply it shortly before attempting to pass through security.

People can check product labels to see if a moisturizer contains glycerin.

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