But it's not that kind of white powder!
February 20, 2012 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Can I bring diatomaceous earth on an airplane? Quick responses appreciated.

I will be flying on a domestic US flight (within California) later this afternoon, and I would like to carry on about a pound of diatomaceous earth. It is nontoxic and not hazardous, but also a fairly uncommon white powder. It would be in a carryon bag, labeled as diatomaceous earth in handwriting. I can explain what it is and what it is for.

It's not a big deal if they confiscate it, but I don't want to be detained or subject to a major search. I'll buy some at my destination if that's easier, but if it's no big deal to take it on the airplane, I'll do that instead.

It's not on the TSA or FAA web pages.
posted by insectosaurus to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
I wouldn't chance it - maybe if I put it in checked baggage I would, but not in carry-on. Ditch it and buy it when you get there. (effin' TSA...)
posted by brownrd at 12:16 PM on February 20, 2012

If it's not in commercial packaging, I can imagine that a TSA agent would err on the side of "I have no idea what this is" by confiscating it. If you can easily get it where you're going, just get it there.
posted by rtha at 12:17 PM on February 20, 2012

You can't bring it. It's an insecticide. http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ash/ash_programs/hazmat/media/MaterialsCarriedByPassengersAndCrew.pdf

I believe it's also used to make explosives, so if someone decides to be a jerk they have a (lame) excuse.
posted by michaelh at 12:20 PM on February 20, 2012

Best answer: You can't bring it. It's an insecticide.

I don't really think that applies in this instance. It's not a hazardous chemical like those listed in that section.

Your real question is not whether or not you can bring the powder on, but whether or not the particular crew at the airport through which you are about to travel will react reasonably to the powder when they see it. There's no way to know this, and a non-negligible chance they will not. After all, people are still getting arrested for photographing public buildings.

Don't take it.
posted by OmieWise at 12:25 PM on February 20, 2012

Diatomaceous earth is just very fine silicon-dioxide. There's no nitrogen in it so if the homies at the TSA swipe it nothing will register because there's nothing dangerous about pool-filter sand.

Throw it in your checked bag and it shouldn't be any problem.
posted by three blind mice at 12:34 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Soap is also used as an insecticide, and sawdust is used to make explosives. If someone decides to be a jerk they don't need that much of an excuse.
posted by hattifattener at 12:36 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all. It sounds like I should legally and safely be able to take it, but I'm going to take Omie's wise advise (see what I did there?) and skip it. Omie is correct that there's a non negligible chance of a TSA agent giving me trouble, and I don't want to deal with that.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:47 PM on February 20, 2012

Good idea. Even if they decide it's not an explosive or biological agent, there's a non-zero probability they'll think it's drugs of some sort.
posted by tommasz at 12:54 PM on February 20, 2012

Last year, flying back from Florida, my [13-yr-old] son carried a Gatorade bottle full of beach sand onto the plane. He was pulled aside, the agent asked him what it was, he told the guy it was sand, and the bottle went back into his carryon. No fuss, no patdown, no testing, nothing. Of course, what happened in 2011 at the Pensacola airport has nothing to do with what will happen today at some other airport, but there it is.

Had I known he had it in his bag, I'd have probably checked it.
posted by chazlarson at 10:29 AM on February 21, 2012

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