A traveler may be re-thinking her shopping habits after a suitcase she said she bought at a thrift store attracted unwanted attention from airport security officials.
The suitcase was believed to have traces of explosives, according to a Nov. 16 post on TikTok that has been viewed more than 650,000 times.
Zoe Hoyle’s post ran with a label advising, “TAKE NOTE: Don’t buy your case from a charity shop.”
The attached video clip went on to explain, “My daughter gets stopped and scanned as the case has evidence of explosive products for making bombs which resulted in a 30 min search and investigation.”
The video shows the daughter cheerfully waving goodbye, but then the scene switches to a clip of her being patted down by an airport security worker.
The episode ended well, as the mom concluded, “Thankfully she made it to Istanbul.”
The narrative does not specify the location of the incident, but the post is tagged with #manchesterairport, suggesting the incident took place in Manchester, England.
@zoeehoyle TAKE NOTE: Don’t buy your case from a charity shop #stopandsearch #manchesterairport #airportsecurity @mollyandmumma ♬ Oh No – Kreepa
Several people commented that a similar situation had happened to them.
“Omg the same thing happened to my mam at Manchester airport yesterday,” someone named Charlotte said.
“Mumzie” wrote, “This happened to my son when he was 8 it was something to do with the bag we bought in the UK [before] we left I was so scared.”
Some questioned why anyone would buy a used suitcase at all.
“I thought this was just common sense not to buy a suitcase somebody else used,” a TikTok user known as “E” commented.
In an article for ThoughtCo.com, Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., explained the inspection procedure for airport security workers.
“If you’re flying, you may get pulled aside by a TSA agent for a swab test,” Helmenstine wrote. “Also, your baggage may get swabbed. The purpose of the test is to check for chemicals that might be used as explosives.”
Airport security agents typically test for two key bomb-making compounds: nitrates and glycerin.
“The good news is the test is highly sensitive,” Helmenstine wrote. “The bad news is nitrates and glycerin are found in some harmless everyday products, so you could test positive.”
Those products include hand soaps, lotions, cosmetics, hair products and baby wipes, which could contain glycerin; some medications “such as nitroglycerin and other nitrates;” lawn fertilizers containing nitrates (“Wash your hands and especially your shoes”); munitions, accelerants and fireworks.
Helmenstine advised travelers against becoming hostile or aggressive if detained.
“It won’t speed the process,” she said.
Attorney Christopher Coble agreed. If detained, “Don’t panic,” he advised in an article on FindLaw.com.
“Testing positive for certain chemicals, accelerants, or other substances under the TSA’s Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) tests is not a crime in and of itself, but it may lead to a few more questions from TSA personnel and a more extensive search of your baggage.”
Coble said the TSA knows many people have hobbies or professions that might cause them to test positive for chemicals associated with explosives.
“The agency acknowledges that hunters, firefighters, police officers, and military personnel who are around various accelerants and munitions on a daily basis may test positive even though they’re not trying to carry an explosive device onto a plane,” he said.
Helmenstine said planning for possible delays is wise.
“The best advice is to arrive early enough before your flight to get through security,” she wrote in ThoughtCo.com.
And if your suitcase came from a thrift store, you might want to give it a thorough cleaning at home before packing and leaving for the airport.
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