The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is adding a new layer of security to its airport screening process. New X-Ray technology will identify suspicious powders in checked bags and carry-ons. It does say most common powders, such as medication, makeup, and baby formula, will not require extra scrutiny, though no specifics are given regarding what types of powders could trigger a screening. The security process is not expected to change when powder screening begins, and a TSA spokesperson told me the follow-up test (if the X-ray detects a suspicious powder) takes only a few minutes (assuming, of course, your powder is found to be harmless).
The TSA says no specific threat triggered this new process, and in fact it has been testing powder screening kits since late last year. It does say it is aware of improvised explosive devices that involve powders.
This sounds like a minimally invasive security measure most travelers won't notice—nothing like the liquid ban that affected the way people planned and packed for flights. And certainly nothing like those highly controversial body scanners the TSA is rolling out. In fact, it's my hope that powder screening represents a shift toward non-disruptive precautionary procedures, and away from the invasive and often embarrassing hassle travelers deal with today.
**Update** I called the TSA to get more clarity on whether or not some common powders could trigger an additional test. While the person I spoke to couldn't provide details, I was assured that just about anything you'd purchase at your local drug store should be fine.
**Update two** For anyone interested in airport security, I highly recommend Patrick Smith's sharp criticism of the TSA and security policy in general.