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Liquid Restrictions Could be Over in 2010, While TSA Begins Screening Powders

09/14/2009 -Liquid restrictions at U.S. airports could belatedly be a thing of the past next fall, while the federal government has introduced new screening measures on powders,reports The Wall Street Journal.

The Transportation Security Administration's (TSA)"3-1-1" carry-on policy for liquids—3.4-ounce containers put in a quart-sized, clear, zip-lock bag and placed in the security bin—should end once new X-ray technology, currently in testing, is deployed.

As the Journal notes, TSA previously believed the restrictions would end this year.

Last October, Kip Hawley, the TSA administrator in the previous administration, had said he thought that would happen in 2009 . But now TSA says you’ll likely have to keep putting 3.4 ounce bottles in quart-sized bags at least for another year.

“Aggressive testing continues with industry and at the national labs in working towards a solution,” TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne says. One issue: TSA says it anticipates having contracts in place by the end of fiscal year 2010 to purchase enough upgraded machines to cover every federalized airport in the U.S.

That means Sept. 30, 2010.

The agency has also rolled out a new screening procedure for powders for fear terrorists could smuggle explosive powders on board a flight. Certain powders have been used in improvised explosive devices,TSA noted in a statement, although the agency stressed there is "no specific threat at this time."

Here's how TSA says the new screenings will work.

Officers will use X-ray technology to determine which substances may require additional screening with a powder test kit. If the substance does require additional screening, officers will use a powder test kit to collect a small sample and apply a solution to it to test for traces of potential explosives. If a particular powder is determined to be a potential threat, it will not be permitted into the secure area or checked baggage.

TSA assures travelers that common powders, such as medication, baby formula, and makeup, will not need secondary screenings.

♦ Photo of Airport Security Screening line bywilliam couch/Flickr