For years, many have worried that the scanners at airports will erase the contents of their memory cards. Recent tests found no evidence of X-ray scanner damage to removable memory cards or to the data stored on them.
The tests of scanner models currently in use in the U.S. transportation industry were conducted by the International Imaging Industry Association (I3A), a global association for the imaging industry; SanDisk, a maker of memory cards; and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
These findings mean that memory cards can be carried safely in either checked or carry-on bags, which should be reassuring to holiday travelers.
It’s likely that the source of peoples’ fears of X-ray scanners damagaing their memory cards comes from the fact that these devices will fog regular camera film.
The memory cards were tested at the TSA Security Laboratory in Atlantic City. Test subjects included SD cards, CompactFlash cards, and Memory Stick Pro cards from a range of manufacturers.
These were loaded with detailed images and subjected to repeated passes through X-ray scanners matching those now in use at transportation facilities.
At the end of the tests, the images were unaltered and the devices showed no sign of damage.
Complete details on the tested media cards, test protocols, and results can be downloaded from the I3A web site.
Separate tests were conducted at the same facility to determine whether the walk-through metal detectors or hand-held metal detector wands have any effect on memory cards. As with the X-ray scanners, no damage to media or images was evident from either of these devices.
The technical support center at SanDisk has been closely monitoring the X-ray issue for several years. As SanDisk ships over a million flash memory cards per week, any issues from security devices would quickly become apparent, but the company has received fewer than a dozen reports per year of problems with airport security systems.