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Insulin & airport X ray machines

Discussion in 'Diabetes Soapbox - Have Your Say' started by Phil Randome, Oct 16, 2010.

  1. Phil Randome

    Phil Randome · Newbie

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    Can anybody advise on where I might find more information with regard to insulin being passed through the X ray scanners at airports & whether it is damaged or de-natured as a result. Similarly I want to know if insulin pumps & blood/sugar monitors & strips are compromised by this procedure. The US Transportation Security Administration along with its Australian & Canadian counterparts all advise that insulin, insulin pumps & blood testing equipment should NOT be X rayed. They should only be visually appraised.
    I've contacted two insulin manufacturers about this but all I got was a cop out reply from one which indicated they'd not done any research. I'm hoping to get a more accurate scientific response from the other but I'm amazed that this issue has not been properly explored.
    I'm convinced that my blood/sugar monitoring kit was damaged by airport X ray machines during an August trip to Italy & having been denied the right to have my insulin visually inspected at Lisbon Airport recently I have stopped using those irradiated vials.
    On the outward bound trip from the UK I was asked if I preferred the insulin to be visually inspected. Why is this option not available world-wide ?
     
  2. Dustydazzler

    Dustydazzler Type 1 · Well-Known Member

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    Insulin and testing kits are not damaged by X-ray. A pump can go through the magnetised arches but do not put a pump through X-ray.
     
  3. Phil Randome

    Phil Randome · Newbie

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    Thankyou for your response "Dustydazzler" but I was hoping for a response offerring recent empirical scentific research into the matter. Furthermore with body X ray machines being installed in airports world wide, the diabetic community should be in possession of all the facts in order to argue their case at airports. Why is it that at Luton Airport for example the security team there ask, unprompted, if you would prefer your insulin not to go through the scanner but in Lisbon not only does the security staff not offer this option they compel you to put EVERYTHING through, including pumps. They even deny travellers the right to discuss this with their manager. I submit that this is discrimination. Why isn't there a world-wide written standard policy on this issue so that we can at least decide to fly or not ?
    I personally will not be flying until I get some proper answers & assurances. If I have a hypo on the aeroplane because my blood/sugar monitoring kit is giving false readings because of X ray scanners who will take responsibility for this ? On the 5 flights I've taken in the last 3 months I have found a complete abdication of responsibility when I pose this question.
     
  4. Dustydazzler

    Dustydazzler Type 1 · Well-Known Member

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    I personally don't have scientific research to quote to you but the literature out there is that it is safe for your testing kit to go through the x-ray machine. If i was asked to go through a body scanner then I would explain that my pump cant go through and hope that they will not make me. If they insist I have a body scan then I dont see harm in taking my pump off for a moment while they do what they want to do for everyones safety. If they insisted my pump is x-rayed (which they wont because airport staff know about these things) then I would ask for the manager and kick up a stink and stand my ground because I dont want to run the risk of it breaking. Testing kits have been going through airport x-rays for years and suffer no ill effects though. Why would you let this situation stop you from travelling. You will never get any answers from people higher up. They dont care if you travel or not and they certainly dont care that you have diabetes. To them it doesnt mean anything as millions of diabetics travel successfully every hour. If you have a hypo on the plane, take 3 dextrose tablets that you should always have on your person. Or under the circumstances, im pretty sure the cabin crew wouldn't charge you for a full fat coke for medical reasons - they dont want you passing out and they are trained to give sugar to any diabetic feeling unwell.
     
  5. sub

    sub · Member

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    The Xray machines in all airports emit less radiation than you will be exposed to on your flight. They are not at all like the xray you would get at a hospital or dentist.
    They will not in any way damage your insulin, pump (if you took it off), BM machine or test strips.

    After all, insulin/pumps/monitors etc are shipped around the world and as cargo, will have passed through the same security process you do as a passenger.

    You can request that a visual check is made of your medication and the items swabbed if you don't want to put them through the machine, BUT generally, this must be backed up by a doctors letter stating that it must not go through the xray machine.

    The archway you walk through is just a large magnet nothing more - it is advised that people with pacemakers do not go through, but having seen a few elderly people with pacemakers remember they've got one after they've just walked through the archway - it has had no ill effect to them either.

    The new body scanners use infra-red. They are not MRI scanners or use any form of Xrays.
    Therefore, these will not damage your pump if you are wearing one. They are safe for pacemakers, cochlear implants etc.. too.
     
  6. sugar2

    sugar2 · Well-Known Member

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    I was explicitly told not to let my insulin pump go through the xray machines at airports. Thsi was by the pump manufacturer rep (Roche) I believe, but don't know for sure, that they have not done teh testing, and therefore err on teh side of caution. teh Diabetes consultant worote a letter, that now lives in my pass port. Insulin adn test machine I have never had any bother with tho!
     
  7. sub

    sub · Member

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    As you would be wearing your pump - it wouldn't go through the x-ray anyway.

    There is a common misconception that the archway is an x-ray machine - it is just a magnet set to detect dense metals- ie; gun, knife, razor etc...
    Plenty of pregnant women refuse to go through as they say it will damage their baby - its utter tosh, but in the interest of customer service, they are hand searched instead.

    I work at an airport and went through archways 5 days a week - at least 8 times a day when I was pregnant with both my children - No ill effects, though someone is bound to blame my daughters diabetes on it!!
     
  8. sugar2

    sugar2 · Well-Known Member

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  9. phoenix

    phoenix Type 1 · Expert

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    I don't have any problem walking through the arch with my pump.

    http://www.medtronic.com/your-health/diabetes/living-with/insulin-pump/daily-living/

    but I would not put it on the xray belt. It's not just that it's an expensive item, it could also be life threatening if it were caused to malfunction. Here's another quote this time from the animas site.

    http://www.animas.com/about-insulin-pum ... h-diabetes

    I always tell them about it but mine doesn't set off the alarm anyway. The only metal components on it are a couple of tiny screws on the clip. I have read of some pumps/clips? that have set off the alarm.
    As to the fate of the insulin vials that are xrayed, personally I have had no problems with the insulin after it's been through the scanner and my monitor, along with other electronic items like my laptop seem to survive OK too.
    I did find this from diabetes Australia abour x rays and insulin.

    http://www.diabetesvic.org.au/living-wi ... tes/travel
     
  10. sugar2

    sugar2 · Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, just to clarify, I was told this about my Accuchek Combo...not sure about other pumps...thanks for the links Phoenix!
     
  11. sub

    sub · Member

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    Sugar2

    Where have you been told to take the pump off?

    We NEVER ask for pumps to be removed or any other medical equipment that is attached to the body. It's un necessary and insensitive to boot.

    If you are ever asked to remove your pump - REFUSE.
     
  12. sugar2

    sugar2 · Well-Known Member

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    Sub, my apologies....it was the pump rep who told us to take the pump off...not the airport staff. The airport staff have, on teh whole been very polite, if slightly bemused by it all. I think, they like you, think it is unnecessary. :D
     
  13. stabatha

    stabatha · Well-Known Member

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    HI, I been to Pakistan twice now for 3 months at a time and all the insulin i took went through x-ray and lasted ok, the only problem i had was at security when they asked why i had a screwdriver in my bag, i told them i hadnt and that i was going to see my husband and after 6 months away from each other i certainly wasn't planning to do any DIY :lol: ... he said well whats this then (pulling out my insulin pen ) i told him what it was and they just took it out and re x-rayed my bag again then i was off to departures :). I kept all my insulin in a cool bag wrapped in bubble wrap and with ice packs and it took in total 31 hours to get there with travel from cornwall to manchester, then the plane was delayed and after had a 9 hour flight , but even with that it still lasted the 3 months while i was there i just popped it in the fridge on my arrival.
     
  14. Raph

    Raph · Newbie

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    I've neither heard of nor experienced blood test equipment damage due to airport X-ray devices however these machines can destabilise insulin. If the insulin is allowed to pass straight through the machine it should survive unharmed however when the belt is loaded and the operator stops it to have a good look at every bag, the X-ray exposure can become excessive and your insulin could well emerge too weak to be of any use. This was confirmed to me by the American Diabetes Association after my supplies were destroyed twice travelling to France.

    The American Transportation Security Administration published the following;

    If the security staff are intransigent and refuse a manual check they may be willing to clear the conveyor and pass your insulin straight through the machine without stopping. In case anyone is interested, my misfortunes occurred at Stanstead, UK. I now always request a manual inspection for peace of mind.
     
  15. sub

    sub · Member

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    Insulin is exposed to more radiation during the flight than it is exposed to passing through the x-ray machine. Each scan emits less than 1/1,000 of the radiation given off in a standard chest X-ray, or the equivalent of two minutes of a high-altitude flight.
    Therefore, your insulin being left in the tunnel whilst an image is being double checked has the same effect as 2 minutes in the air.

    When the belt is stopped, there are no active x-rays being produced. An image is taken in less than a second - if the belt stops, so does the x ray!

    When items get stuck inside the tunnel - we have to climb in and get them out. We wouldn't be doing this if x rays were still being produced!

    There are plenty of diabetics working at the airports. All of them have to pass through security to work in the "airside" areas. Their insulin passes through the scanners every time.

    Insulin is shipped all over the world - it is passed through scanners at airports and shipping ports.
     
  16. Richard.E.Craig

    Richard.E.Craig · Member

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    I'm not sure about the health implications but I do know that anything tirradiated by an X-Ray retains the gamma radiation that it was exposed to permanently, i.e it never leaves the object, every time you or your insulin gets an X-Ray it gets more radioactive. Twice as many X-Rays means twice as much gamma :mrgreen: radiation. Unfortunately its not only our insulin that becomes radioactive,syringes and hypodermic needles are sterilised by gamma rays !
     
  17. sue96

    sue96 · Member

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    I recently brought a 2 month supply of insulin pens through an airport x-ray machine. I am needing to use far more insulin than normal since arriving at my destination. It seems something has happened to my insulin :( Tempting to believe that the x-ray machine may have affected it.
     
  18. noblehead

    noblehead Type 1 · Guru
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    Did you keep your insulin cool in your hand luggage and not in suitcases in the hull of the plane, the temperature drops below freezing down there and this could explain any changes to your insulin.
     
  19. borofergie

    borofergie Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    The cargo holds of modern aircraft are all pressurised, and temperature controlled - usually they are bit cooler than the cabin (because they are heated with exhaust cabin air). They certainly shouldn't be any colder than 10 degrees C.

    (this is just FYI, you are probably best keeping your insulin somewhere where you can control it's temperature).
     
  20. noblehead

    noblehead Type 1 · Guru
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    Thanks I didn't know that :eek:

    I was just checking on the Gatwick Airport website and it just says: ''if you are concerned about the effects of the temperature in the aircraft hold on your medication, you should speak with your airline''......which doesn't give a lot away!
     
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