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Holiday Travels and the TSA - what's up with the hand swabbing at the passengers' lounge?

Updated on September 23, 2013

CHRISTMAS TRAVEL - Hello TSA Hand swabbing!

The Transportation Security Administration, according to CNN back in February 2010, announced that they will begin randomly swabbing passengers hands at checkpoints and airport gatesfor traces for explosives. [February 17, 2010 - By Jeanne Meserve and Mike M. Ahlers, CNN]

Supposedly, TSA is checking for residues of bomb-making material. So, this is old news. After passing through Dulles, LAX, SFO, La Guardia etc. and more airports within the last year, witnessing this procedure was a first at San Antonio Airport.

One goes through the checkpoints, and officers can be seen using little white swabs at the TSA checkpoint. What they are doing is conducting the Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) tests. ETD tests are used to check luggages, cargo environments and they swab things such as laptops, shoes, film, hands, casts - pretty much anything.

They run a white swab on your hand or item and obtain a trace sample. It is then placed into the machine who in turn analyzes the sample for explosives.

But this sounds really stupid. Why can't they just swab everybody then? I saw them swab an elderly lady and pretty much passed an odd looking man [odd meaning, he was extremely unkempt, hair disheveled - but oh well, maybe he had a long international flight.] I think you know where I am going here. Was the TSA security afraid of "profiling" him?

According to the TSA Blog,, TSA stated that an "improvised explosive devises poses the biggest threat to aviation security today."

Okay.... but what if the results churn out a false positive? It happens in the medical field...I read a blog somewhere which jokingly stated that since TSA is swabbing hands, why don't they charge for throat cultures or H1N1 nasal tests while waiting? They may as well check our blood sugar levels for diabetes as well.

Don't get me wrong, Slight inconvenience such as hand swabbing may seem like small potatoes. With this type of procedure however, it is more efficient to just swab all passengers' hands since they are doing that for the hand-carried items anyway.Is there a difference whether it is done right after security or at the passengers' waiting lounge? Yes.

Wouldn't we save more money if the machine is right there - right where security is instead of wasting more money hiring more TSA officers to walk around the aiprort with the cart carrying the detection machine? Go through checkpoint, handswab the passengers while their luggages are going through, get your luggages, tie your shoes and you're done. Just sayin'.

TSA - They'll swab your hands - Do you have a choice?

TSA Hand swabbing at airpot

This was taken at the airport in San Antonio, TX t on December 18, 2011. I travel frequently but this is the first time I've seen this happen at the airport.

I shot this video inside the passenger's waiting lounge. We've already gone through security... then, a few minutes before we were called for boarding, here comes the TSA Security with this machine.

Watch the man in blue - see the tongs? He takes a cotton swab, rubs solution in it. Then he started randomly picking passengers and asked them to hold out their hand. He then rubbed the swab with the tongs on their hands, placed the swab in the machine.

So, my questions is, what if you refuse? What if you are allergic to the solution? Do we not have a choice?


You might encounter problems when TSA sees wrapped gifts. There is no guarantee according to the TSA that your gifts won't be mangled up. Save yourself the stress and do not wrap gifts while going through airport security.

Eggnog Yup. The 3-1-1- liquids rule still hold. Otherwise, drink it all up.

Snow Globes Really? Not allowed.

Fruitcake Depends on the TSA officer.

Christmas Sweaters Do not wear the ones with blinking lights.

Other Food Pies, cakes, turkeys, donuts are allowed. Sauces, dips, spreads, salsa, gravy, jams, maple syrup, oils, vinegar, wine, beer -alcohol - Not allowed.

TSA hand swabs

Do you agree with TSA placing cotton/gauze pads on your fingers and placing in their machine?

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      Jan 2 years ago

      I had a very bad reaction from this, I never saw the wand being cleaned she just went from hand to hand touching it with the instrument.within a half hour I started itching, sneezing, swelling. It made for a miserable travel.