The Transportation Security Administration is expanding the random use of Explosive Trace Detection technology at airports throughout the United States as an additional layer...

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is expanding the random use of Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) technology at airports throughout the United States as an additional layer of security.

“Explosive Trace Detection technology is a critical tool in our ability to stay ahead of evolving threats to aviation security,” says Gale Rossides, TSA Acting Administrator . “Expanding the use of this technology at checkpoints and at departure gates greatly enhances security to keep the traveling public safe.”


Since the Christmas Day failed attack on a Northwest Airlines Airbus A330-200 flying from Amsterdam to Detroit, the TSA has increased its random use of ETD technology within security checkpoints to screen passengers’ hands and carry-on luggage.

In addition, the TSA says it piloted the use of ETD technology in both the checkpoint-queue and boarding areas for two weeks at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Orlando International Airport, and Pitt-Greenville Airport and Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in North Carolina.

The TSA says passengers can now expect to see the increased random use of ETD technology in areas where it currently conducts screening, such as the security checkpoint, the checkpoint queue and boarding areas.

TSA officers may swab a piece of luggage or passengers’ hands, then use ETD technology to test for explosives. The swab is placed inside the ETD unit, which analyzes the content for the presence of potential explosive residue. To ensure the health of travelers, screening swabs are disposed of after each use.

Since ETD will be used on a random basis, passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport or each time they travel, the TSA says.

To date, the Department of Homeland Security ― of which the TSA is a part ― has awarded $15 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for 400 fixed ETD units. Additionally, President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget prioritizes key investments in aviation security, including $39 million to purchase approximately 800 portable ETD machines.