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Shipping Infectious Substances

Shipment of many microorganisms is regulated.

If you occasionally package infectious substances (human or animal pathogens) for transport by commercial carrier, you must first receive training. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulate shipment of human and animal pathogens. The regulations are complex and exacting. They require that researchers who prepare infectious materials for shipment receive periodic training (every 2 or 3 years, depending on the regulation). In addition, packages must be marked and labeled exactly as the regulations specify, and packaging materials must have been tested and certified to withstand certain durability and pressure tests. Cardboard boxes in which supplies have been received cannot be used to ship infectious materials. Recent events have led to greater scrutiny for compliance with these regulations.


ESSR provides training and certification for shipping infectious substances and other biological materials with an emphasis on laboratories and research groups. Among the topics covered are: regulatory definitions of infectious substance, diagnostic specimen, and biologic product; use of the Hazardous Materials Table to find the proper shipping name and packaging instructions; requirements for shipping biological material with dry ice; correctly filling out the shipping documentation; and additional federal permits that may be required. Attendees who complete the quiz will receive a certificate showing compliance with the DOT training requirement. If you plan to ship human or animal pathogens via commercial carrier, please register for shipping training

Transportation by UMD vehicle

DOT hazardous materials rules do not apply to transportation of infectious substances outside of commerce, such as UMD trucks driven by UMD employees for the purpose of moving hazardous material from one UMD building to another. Although non-commercial transport is exempt from labeling, marking, and packaging requirements, you should take all reasonable precautions to prevent accidents or spills during transport. All hazardous material should be well labeled and contained. Secondary containment is highly recommended (e.g., double bag the container or put it in a sturdy, sealed box). Do not transport hazardous material in a personal vehicle. Contact ESSR for specific advice.

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