ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences
All consignments within the categories of pathological specimens must be packaged strictly in accordance with the International Air Traffic Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Manual.
Pathological Specimens including blood and urine samples but not limited to such items, both human and animal, may not be consigned in consolidations and must be accompanied with a declaration attached to the consignment to the effect that the shipment is either "Infectious" or "Noninfectious". The nature of the contents is to be clearly defined on the package and the consignment note signed by the shipper. Diagnostic specimens which are any human or animal material, including but not limited to excreta, secretions, blood and its components, tissue and tissue fluids, may not be consigned in consolidations and must have a declaration attached to the consignment as to whether the contents are "Infectious" or "Noninfectious". The nature of the contents is to be clearly defined on the package and on the consignment note and signed by the shipper.
In essence, the following points need special attention:
a) All samples are packaged in a small, thicksided, foam container that is properly sealed in accordance with IATA dangerous goods standards, i.e. the package must not leak the contents of the package should a breakage occur to any receptacle in the package.
b) The foam container is properly labelled with the sign "Free of Infection" in the case of human blood or "Infectious" or "Noninfectious" in the case of pathological or diagnostic specimens.
c) The nature of the contents and the appropriate "Free of Infection", "Infectious" or "Noninfectious" description must be stated on the air consignment note and signed by the authorised person from the department consigning the goods.
d) If the sample is infectious it must be packaged to withstand breakage or leakage after impact from a 7 Kg mass dropped onto the package from a height of 1 (one) metre above the package. The sample should also resist breakage or leakage after the package has been immersed in water for 30 minutes and then dropped from a height of 9 (nine) metres onto a flat, horizontal surface. The sample must not break or leak after the package has been dropped from a height of 1 (one) metre onto a steel bar measuring no greater than 6mm in diameter.
e) The design of any package must take into account the variations in temperature to which the package may be subjected during transportation and storage. In this respect 40°C and 70°C may be considered as satisfactory limits.
If there is any concern about the correct way to package and ship a biological specimen, the freight section of all international airlines carry copies of the IATA regulations.
Radioactive material is not usually shipped from biological sciences laboratories, the regulations governing these materials have therefore not been discussed. If you require this information consult your local international airline office.
Dangerous Goods Regulations, 27th Edition.