If the TSA were to scan for Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer (AN) they would get a very high percentage of travelers testing positive as this guy did:
An 82-year-old farmer from Brush got quite the surprise Thursday when he was briefly detained by Fort Collins-Loveland airport security after his suitcase tested positive for the chemicals used to make bombs.
Large numbers of false positives mean they have to hand examine large numbers of people. This will require far more manpower and increase the frustration with the TSA. If they don’t scan for AN then they leave a huge gaping hole in their security. Yes, AN needs something else with it to detonate. Boomerite, for example, uses Potassium Chlorate (PC) and Ethylene Glycol (EG). Scanning for either of these isn’t going to accomplish anything. PC is one of the main ingredients in matches. EG is the common automobile anti-freeze. False positives are us.
Scanning for all three, AN, PC, and EG would detect Boomerite but there isn’t anything particularly magic about those three. AN with any number of things will explode. Here is just a partial list of things I have used:
- Aluminum powder
- Model racing fuel
- Powdered milk
- Powdered sugar
- Wheat flour
- Propylene Glycol
- Acetone (nail polish remover)
- Methanol (wood alcohol)
- Naphthalene (moth balls)
Basically anything that will burn will enable detonation of AN. So unless TSA is willing to detain and hand search every passenger that walked through their recently fertilized lawn and then ate a powdered sugar donut on the way to security there is no point in scanning for AN. Plus this assumes that a real threat would not be able to seal and clean up their explosives device and themselves sufficiently that they couldn’t get their chemical profile below the detection threshold.
Since explosives detection is pointless and they do not hand examine every passenger TSA is really nothing but A Security Theater.