Guide to Shipping with Dry Ice

The following information outlines the procedures to ship materials by aircraft or water that contain ONLY dry ice and non-hazardous materials. If you are shipping chemicals, solutions containing chemicals, or biohazardous materials this training DOES NOT APPLY.

For chemical, biological, or radioactive material shipments, please contact Risk Management & Safety for assistance.

Federal regulations require that anyone wishing to ship samples in dry ice must first complete shipping training. If you are going to package dry ice for shipment or sign any type of shipping documentation (such as a FedEx airbill) for a dry ice shipment, you must first complete the online DRY ICE SHIPPING TRAINING.

Guide to Shipping with Dry Ice

The following information is to be used as a reminder for people who have completed dry ice shipping training within the previous three (3) years.

Hazardous Materials and Dangerous Goods
Training Requirements
Excepted Biological Specimens
Hazard Identification
Preparing Your Shipment
Air Way Bill
Packaging Dry Ice
Marking and Labeling
Liquid Nitrogen Dry Shippers
Checklist for Shipping with Dry Ice

Hazardous Materials and Dangerous Goods

If you are shipping biological substances that meet the definition of either Category A or Category B (infectious substance as defined below), then you must complete DOT/IATA's 8-hour training.  STOP and Contact Risk Management & Safety.

Infectious substance:  a material known or reasonably expected to contain a microorganism or infectious particle that can cause disease in humans or animals.

Examples: Hepatitis B virus (cultures only), West Nile virus (cultures only), Dengue virus (culturs only), Adenovirus, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1), and Streptococcal bacteria. 

If you are still unsure if the materials you will be shipping is considered an infectious substance, consult the following flow diagram to determine if your shipment is subject to the requirements of a 6.2 material.


*Flow chart adapted from DOT Guide, Transporting Infectious Substance Safely

Only those agents not subject to the requirements of 6.2 may be shipped using this guide.


If you are shipping specimens that contain materials with any of the following chemical or physical hazards, then STOP. Additional training is required.

Hazardous materials of concern include:

  • Explosives
  • Compressed Gases
  • Flammable Solids
  • Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides
  • Toxic Materials
  • Radioactive Materials
  • Corrosive Materials


Examples: samples stored in ethanol, samples containing beryllium or other heavy metal, samples preserved in hydrochloric acid

Only those chemicals that do not meet DOT's or IATA's definition of hazardous materials may be shipped using this training.

If you are unsure if the material you are shipping is considered hazardous or if you intend to ship any hazardous chemical, biological or radioactive material, refer to the DOT website or contact Risk Management & Safety at

Regulations do allow for certain exceptions to the infectious material criteria. If your samples fall into any of the exceptions below, you may ship those samples in accordance with requirements stated below once the training is completed.

Excepted Human Specimens

Definition: Human, animal, insect, or plant material which do not contain infectious substances or substances which are unlikely to cause disease in humans or animals and are transported for diagnostic or investigational purposes.

  • Examples include excreta (urine, feces), blood or its components, secreta (saliva, sweat), and tissues and fluids. 
  • Routine blood, serum, or urine samples from patients shipped to a laboratory for routine testing are except only if, in your professional judgment (based on medical history, symptoms and individual circumstances of the source), the patients have a minimal likelihood of being infectious.
  • Specimens suspected of being infectious must be shipped as an infectious agents and further training is required.
  • Live animals or infected animal specimens are not considered exempt.

Other Excepted Biological Specimens

Additionally, the following excepted materials are NOT subject to the requirements of the DOT/IATA regulations as part of Division 6.2 material (biological and infectious materials):

  • Neutralized or inactivated biological substance: Substances in a form that any present pathogen have been neutralized or inactivated such that they no longer pose a health risk.
  • Microorganisms which are non-pathogenic to humans or animals and do not pose a threat to the environment.
  • Environmental samples:(including food and water samples), which are not considered to pose a significant risk of infection.
  • Dried blood spots: Collected by applying a drop of blood on to absorbent material or fecal occult blood screening test.
  • Transfusion materials: (Uninfected) Blood components which have been collected for the purposes of transfusion or the preparation of blood products to be used for transfusion or transplantation.

Specimens in Fixatives

Specimens in formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, or any other chemical fixative may be shipped as long as the amount of chemical is 30 ml or less in each individual container. Samples with more than 30 ml of fixative must be shipped as a chemical hazard by Risk Management & Safety.

Packaging Excepted Human/Animal Specimens

Although specimens or samples are excepted materials, certain packaging requirements are still applicable. Care in the selection of the proper packaging will safeguard your shipment and reduce your liability in case of shipment accident.

The outer packaging must be a cardboard box - DO NOT ship in styrofoam boxes that are not within cardboard!

Triple Package System for Shipping ALL Liquid Biological Materials

  1. Primary container must be water-tight, leak-proof, securely closed receptacles (i.e. eppendorf tube, conical, or vial). Parafilm can be used to secure the seal of the tubes. Specimen bags should be taped shut. You may ship multiple receptacles in the same package.
  2. Leak-proof secondary container (in case the primary containment fails) with sufficient absorbent materials to completely absorb the contents in the event of a spill.
    • It is a good idea to place an itemized list of contents in between the secondary container and outer package
  3. Durable outer container (box/packaging): styrofoam boxes must be placed within a durable cardboard box.

    When re-using boxes, ensure cardboard is intact, without and tears, dents, or other damage.

  4. The outer package must be marked with "Exempt human specimen" or "exempt animal specimen".

Training Requirements

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulate air shipments of dry ice because it is a hazardous material. As a result, specific procedures must be followed when packaging and shipping by air materials refrigerated with dry ice. A record of training must also be kept. Packages refrigerated with dry ice are normally shipped by air in order to reach their destination rapidly. Therefore, information on this training pertains to air shipments of dry ice only. Ground shipments of dry ice are not regulated. If you intend to ship your package by water, contact Risk Management & Safety to discuss applicability of shipping regulations.

Federal regulations require that anyone involved in shipping a hazardous material (including dry ice) must first receive training. If you are going to package dry ice for shipment or sign any type of shipping documentation (such as a FedEx Airbill) for a dry ice shipment, you must follow the training certification requirements of this training.  Shipping regulations change frequently, so it is necessary to renew your certification every three years.

Hazard Identification

Dry ice is classified by DOT and IATA as a “miscellaneous” hazard, class 9.

Dry ice is considered hazardous during transportation for three reasons:

  • Explosion hazard: dry ice releases a large volume of carbon dioxide gas as it sublimates. If packaged in a container that does not allow for release of the gas, it may explode, causing personal injury or property damage.
  • Suffocation hazard: a large volume of carbon dioxide gas emitted in a confined space may create an oxygen deficient atmosphere.
  • Contact hazard: dry ice is a cryogenic material that causes severe frostbite upon contact with skin.

Preparing Your Shipment

Dry ice shipments can be made with FedEx and DHL. UPS and the U.S. Postal Service have extremely restrictive policies concerning shipments of hazardous materials. Do not ship dry ice with UPS or the U.S. Postal Service from UVM.

Packaging dry ice properly minimizes the risk to personnel transporting the material. The explosion hazard is eliminated with a proper package designed to vent gaseous carbon dioxide. Suffocation and contact hazards are greatly reduced by labeling the package correctly, so those who come in contact with it will be aware of the contents.

  • Ensure your training is up to date (within 3 years).
  • Ensure the packaging is free from damage.
  • When choosing a container to ship dry ice, consider the following:
    • Gas venting: packages must allow for release of carbon dioxide gas. Dry ice must never be sealed in a container with an airtight seal such as a jar with a threaded lid.
    • Package integrity: a package containing dry ice must be of adequate strength for intended use. It must be strong enough to withstand the loading and unloading normally encountered in transport. It must also be constructed and closed in order to prevent any loss of contents that might be caused by vibration or by changes in temperature, humidity, or altitude.
    • Package materials: do not use plastics that can be rendered brittle or permeable by the temperature of dry ice. This problem can be avoided by using commercially available packages intended to contain dry ice (see below).
  • Reusing a dry ice box is a good use of resources. If you choose to reuse a box:
    • Completely obliterate all unnecessary markings such as hazard labels, addresses, FedEx (or other courier) labels and barcodes;
    • Use caution if reusing a box that has been used to ship infectious material or diagnostic specimens, and only reuse a box if you can personally verify it has not been contaminated; and
    • Be certain that the integrity of the box has not been compromised. A box should not be reused if it is torn (including the outer paper layer which is often torn when removing tape), cut, stained, or if the insulation is cracked or broken.
  • Ensure that the quantity of dry ice does not exceed 200 kg per package.
  • Wear the appropriate thermal gloves or use a scoop when handling dry ice. NEVER handle dry ice with your bare hands.

Air Way Bill

  • Most shipments of dangerous goods must be accompanied by two shipping documents.
    • Air Waybill
    • Shipper's Declaration for Dangerous Goods
      • The Declaration for Dangerous Goods is not required for dry ice ONLY packages
  • For domestic shipments containing Dry Ice as the only dangerous goods, just the Air Waybill is required.
    • The airway bill must have:
      • Dry Ice, 9, UN1845, number of packages X net weight of dry ice in kilograms
    • NOTE: FedEx airbill already has this information typed. Just check the appropriate box and write in the the amount of dry ice and number of packages.

Packaging Dry Ice

Note the following recommendations when packaging and labeling dry ice shipments:

  • Samples should be surrounded by an absorbent material and then placed in secondary containment. For example, sample is in an epindorf tube, which is wrapped in a paper towel, which is stored in a ziploc bag or conical tube.

  • Secure your samples in such a way that when the dry ice sublimes, they will not move freely inside of the insulated box. This can be accomplished by wedging your samples in place with cardboard or styrofoam. Fragile containers such as glass tubes or vials should be wrapped with cushioning material.
  • Minimize the volume of air to which the dry ice is exposed in order to slow the rate of sublimation. If there is any air space after you fill your package with dry ice, fill it with packing peanuts or other material to reduce the volume of air space.
  • Shipments are generally recommended to contain 5-10 pounds (2.27-4.54 kg) of dry ice per 24 hours. Refer to your package manufacturer’s recommendations. Make arrangements with your consignee (person shipping package to) to make sure your package will be received on its intended delivery date. Take into account local holidays or closings that might delay package receipt.
  • Place tape only as direct by either the packaging manufacturer's instructions or in a way that will not interfere with gas release (i.e. do not fully tape all seams of the box).
  • Dry ice must NEVER be put in a container with an airtight seal
  • Do not write “specimens” or “diagnostic specimens” on the box. Diagnostic specimens are subject to specific packaging requirements and there should not be any misunderstanding about your shipment. Diagnostic specimens, in shipping terminology, are materials that may be infectious to humans or animals. If you think your samples might be infectious, contact Risk Management & Safety.

Marking and Labeling

The required markings and labeling of the outermost container must include the following:

  • A hazard class 9 label
  • The words:
    • UN 1845, Dry Ice or
    • UN 1845 (Carbon dioxide, solid)
  • A label that contains:
    • the net weight of dry ice in kilograms
    • the full name, address, and telephone number of the shipper (YOU) and consignee (who you are shipping the package to).
  • The label must be affixed to a vertical side of the box (not the top or bottom) and oriented as a diamond.

Where to find labels?

Dry Ice Labels are available through UVM Print & Mail (a roll is located at the Given Mailroom). These labels contain the Class 9 hazard diamond, UN1845, Dry Ice, space to write name, address, phone number for the shipper and consignee, and space to indicate net weight of dry ice.

Liquid Nitrogen Dry Shippers

Dry shippers are large vacuum flasks that contain a porous material and are designed for the safe shipment of specimens at liquid nitrogen temperatures without the risk of spilling liquid nitrogen. When prepared correctly, a dry shipper does not contain any free liquid nitrogen and is exempt from DOT hazardous materials shipping requirements. Dry shippers are only exempt if they:

  • will not allow the build-up of pressure within the container.
  • will not permit the release of any refrigerated liquid nitrogen regardless of the dry shipper's orientation (i.e. tipped on side or upside down).
  • are identified as "Not restricted, as per Special Provision A152" on the accompanying air way bill.
Dry ice shippers are only exempt if three conditions above are met, the shippers do NOT contain any regulated products (e.g. Category A or B biological materials, hazardous chemicals, etc), and do not contain any free liquid nitrogen.

Preparing the Dry Shipper

When using a dry shipper, always follow the manufacturer's instructions for filling.

  • Wear a face shield, safety glasses, lab coat or long sleeved shirt, closed toed shoes, and appropriate insulated gloves designed for handling liquid nitrogen.
  • Always work in a well ventilated areas.
  • Add liquid nitrogen slowly to the dry shipper. A significant amount of nitrogen gas will be generated as the cold liquid contacts the warm surfaces of the shipper.
  • Stop filling when the liquid nitrogen reaches the neck of the dry shipper. Replace cap and set dry shipper aside, as specified in the manufacturers instructions.
  • Repeat steps until the liquid level no longer drops on standing. This may require as many as 15 repetitions over 24 hours.

When preparing for shipping, remove ALL free liquid nitrogen from the dry shipper before transport.

  • Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • Empty the dry shipper by pouring the excess liquid nitrogen back into a liquid nitrogen dewar flask.
    • NEVER pour liquid nitrogen down the sink or on the floor.
  • Hold the dry ice shipper upside down until the liquid stops flowing. Stand the dry shipper upright for a period as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Repeat these steps as necessary to remove all free liquid nitrogen.

Documentation for Shipping

IATA regulations require the words "Not Restricted" and the "Special Provision number" to be included in the description of the substance on the air waybill. When an air waybill is issued, the following statement must be added "Not restricted, as per Special Provision A152".

If you are interested in using dry shippers, please visit FedEx for more information.

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