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Homeopathic Airport Security PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeffrey Wagg   

Reader Ed sends us this tale of frustrating humor:

I attach for your interest an excerpt from a recent complaint letter I wrote to London Stansted Airport after a friend of mine had what she felt was an unnecessarily rude experience at security, where amongst other things she was told she should have checked the airline security pages before travelling. Which she had actually done, with me present (to help as she is not a native English speaker, and a first time air traveller).

I checked the site again to help prepare the complaint, which only added to my ire when I discovered what is stated (in these FAQs.)

As an aside, I noticed this interesting question on the FAQ: "I need to carry a liquid wig spray. Can I have this in my hand luggage? Yes, up to 100ml, and it has to be presented in the transparent plastic bag."

I continue with the excerpt from my complaint:

In particular on your security FAQ page: ""Can I carry my homeopathic medication, which is in liquid form, in my hand luggage? Yes, up to 100ml and if this is essential for the trip. Be aware that it will have to be screened by X-ray though."

Notably, essential medication of the conventional variety can be carried in larger quantities. Liquids of any other variety may be carried in quantities less than 100ml. So homeopathic medication cannot be carried in the same quantities as other liquids unless they're essential, which is frankly the funniest thing I've ever heard of in airport security failures, since homeopathic medicine does not work and is completely chemically indistinguishable from plain water (or whatever base substance is used in its "formulation"). I cannot think of a 'medication' that is less of a threat to airport security than something that is not a medication at all.

In short, you're allowed to carry liquids in containers up to 100ml anyway, it seems it's actually under stricter controls than normal (or should I say real) medication (where you can take essential medication in larger quantities) or unsuccussed water (which need not be essential to your health).

I was also amused by the warning about X-rays. As http://www.travellingwithchildren.co.uk/acatalog/PG_homeopathicremedies.html tells us X-rays render homeopathic medicines "less effective".

After sending the mail I was naturally concerned that I'd been unfair. Clearly as homeopathic remedies have no beneficial effect, if they're rendered less effective that logically must make them harmful, and perhaps therefore makes them toxic substances that do present more of a security risk than plain water?

Yours in despair,
Ed

As the prevailing theory is that homeopathy "works" by placebo effect, this warning that x-rays may reduce effectiveness is a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy. There was no word on the effects of x-rays on wig spray.

I check the US TSA site for similar notifications, and the only odd thing I saw was a prohibition on snow globes. In fact, this prohibition makes sense as snow globes are often filled with turpentine, which is highly flammable.

Upon checking the Canadian site, I observed this specific mention:

Note: Snow globes and like decorations are permitted in carry-on baggage so long as they fit comfortably in one clear, closed and resealable plastic bag with a capacity of no more than 1 litre (1 quart).

This is rather puzzling, since it is (wisely) not permitted to take aboard a litre of turpentine. Consider the consequences of a large snow globe and a match, both of which are permitted.

And, like their British founders, they also mention homeopathy in this list of permitted items:

Essential non-prescription medication including liquids and gels such as cough syrup and gel cap type pills, decongestant spray, gel based nutritional homeopathic products, etc.

Interesting wording, eh? "Nutritional" and "homeopathy" really don't go together, as by definition, homeopathic remedies are ultra-dilute and cannot contain nutrition. I think like many, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority lumps herbal remedies in with homeopathy, which is simply wrong. This mislabeling doesn't effect security, but it does make me wonder how much thought is really being put into which items are safe for air travel.

I fly often and understand the need for security, but reading things like this makes me uneasy. If there's any place we need reality-based common sense, it's at airport security. And I fear I can't comment further without flying into a rage.

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Comments (21)Add Comment
Hmmm...
written by BillyJoe, February 10, 2009
Sorry Jeff I found this a little bit messy.
A bit of everything and not much about anything.
Maybe I'm tired.
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Homeopathic nutrition
written by Mikebo, February 11, 2009
Re: the nutritional value of homeopathic remedies:
Since lack of food causes starvation and, according to homeopathy, "like cures like", shouldn't the lack of food in the remedies, particulary so diluted, make them HIGHLY nutritious?
The corollary of this would be that homeopathic preparations would be very fattening!
So, maybe we can use homeopathy to cure world hunger and malnutrition?
Or has my logic gone astray somewhere?
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...
written by harpman, February 11, 2009
yay! Mikebo i entertained that same thought, but i'm sure homeopaths can come up with sound reasons why that should be considered a ridiculous idea. Jeffrey can we only conclude that there aren't enough people sufficiently rational/educated to run this world properly?
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Further research...
written by eddedmondson, February 11, 2009
Further research indicates that in some circumstances X-rays create rather than destroy a homeopathic medication:
http://www.homeoint.org/books/...x-ray.htm
But if you think that's baffling, pity the poor homeopath in Gettysburg who is desperately trying to dilute this preparation and for some reason failing every time:
http://www.homeoint.org/books/boericmm/g/get.htm
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But there's no such thing as Little Bottle of Homeopathic Booze....
written by Realitysage, February 11, 2009
Perhaps the airlines give homeopathy a bit of credibility to help keep the neurotic users of the stuff calmer during the flight. Ever notice how many consumers of "alternative" medicines tend to be emotionally unbalanced?
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Snow globes are often filled with turpentine?
written by jadebox, February 11, 2009
I think you meant "mineral oil." Snow globes are most often filled with distilled water and, occassionally, with mineral oil. Mineral oil is flammable, though, so your point is valid.
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written by Alan3354, February 11, 2009
Airport security is similar to a condom - it gives you (some of us) a secure feeling while being screwed.
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written by pxatkins, February 11, 2009
>And, like their British founders,

What does that mean?
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Sound reasons
written by rosie, February 11, 2009
harpman wrote "i'm sure homeopaths can come up with sound reasons.."
I should be very surprised. But they are very big on unsound reasoning!
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written by Deneb, February 11, 2009
To be fair, I don't believe that they are too concerned about the potential for any actual homeopathic "remedies" to contain dangerous substances, but, as with any other liquids, the concern is for the containers to be used to carry other dangerous substances by terrorists. With that in mind, I find it appropriate for homeopathic remedies to be considered of equal footing with other non-medical liquids. The bit about the remedies needing to be essential was probably just put in there in order to minimize the amount of such liquids that are brought on board. As far as the x-ray blurb goes, well I'm sure that some loon has probably made a fit about it at some point, so it's fair for them to issue a warning.

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite displeased that this may give homeopathic remedies an air of legitimacy, but it isn't airport security's mandate to try to debunk such frauds. As such, I'm confident that their judgement is sound when assessing the potential threat of these substances.
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written by markbellis, February 11, 2009
Mineral oil does burn but it has a high flash point - close to that of vegetable oil so it's much safer than turpentine. Fun Fact - mercury is the real no-no liquid on a plane since it reacts with aluminum and planes have had to be written off when mercury was spilled in the cargo hold.
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written by BillyJoe, February 11, 2009
planes have had to be written off when mercury was spilled in the cargo hold.

Sounds like an Urban Legend.
Any links?
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written by cullen, February 11, 2009
planes have had to be written off when mercury was spilled in the cargo hold.


Sounds like an Urban Legend.
Any links?


While I don't immediately find a case of airplanes being written off, the warnings at http://www2.tech.purdue.edu/at...oblems.pdf regarding mercury spills in air cargo seem particularly dire.
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turpentine in snow globes?
written by MadScientist, February 11, 2009
Most snow globes I've seen have plain old water in them - where do you get the turpentine versions?

I'm not surprised at all by the ridiculous things in TSA notices; the TSA is a waste of taxpayers' money and their sole purpose seems to be to harrass passengers to give uncritical passengers the impression that something is being done to ensure their safety. I guess TSA keep unemployable goons who can't even speak english employed, off the streets, and doing what goons do best - harrass people - and all with the blessing of the government.
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written by hamradioguy, February 11, 2009
Dr. John Harder, who has written extensively about the terrorism industry and national security threats, was contacted by Randi about speaking at TAM7. If he ends up on the program I suspect he'd have quite a bit to say about how ineffective airport security really is. For sure he'd agree with Jeff's closing statements.
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written by tlittleton, February 11, 2009
Re: the nutritional value of homeopathic remedies:
Since lack of food causes starvation and, according to homeopathy, "like cures like", shouldn't the lack of food in the remedies, particulary so diluted, make them HIGHLY nutritious?
The corollary of this would be that homeopathic preparations would be very fattening!
So, maybe we can use homeopathy to cure world hunger and malnutrition?
Or has my logic gone astray somewhere?


I will no longer drink water for fear of it making me fat. smilies/smiley.gif
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written by daveg703, February 11, 2009
From Jeff: "Interesting wording, eh? "Nutritional" and "homeopathy" really don't go together, as by definition, homeopathic remedies cannot__________are ultra-dilute and cannot contain nutrition."

For Dave, et al: Please fill in the blank.
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written by BillyJoe, February 11, 2009
Actually, I think you need an eraser...

"Interesting wording, eh? "Nutritional" and "homeopathy" really don't go together, as by definition, homeopathic remedies cannot are ultra-dilute and cannot contain nutrition."

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by bosshog, February 12, 2009
Deneb:
I concur.
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@MadScientist
written by JeffWagg, February 12, 2009
It could be kerosene instead of turpentine, but here's one anecdote, and I've heard of others. http://www.amazon.com/Nickelod...641931069. I perhaps overstated how often it was used, however.

As nothing will grow in either turpentine or kerosene, and the liquid stays clear over time, they're good choices for this application, with the exception of the flammability factor.
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written by Steel Rat, February 16, 2009
Jeffrey can we only conclude that there aren't enough people sufficiently rational/educated to run this world properly?


I think that's been a problem since the beginning of human civilization, at least.
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