Transporting Biological Materials

The movement of potentially hazardous substances including infectious agents, chemicals, or research animals is both a sensitive subject and one that, depending on the materials being moved and method of movement, can fall under various federal and state regulations.  The University of Michigan (U-M) has put into place restrictions on the movement of these materials on university modes of public transportation such as the U-M buses, where individuals unfamiliar with the materials may be potentially exposed or have the perception of exposure.  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods and US Department of Transportation (DOT) regulate shipment of hazardous substances including infectious substances and chemicals according to the following table:

Category AAn infectious substance which is transported in a form that, when exposure to it occurs, is capable of causing permanent disability, life-threatening or fatal disease in otherwise healthy humans or animals.
Category BAn infectious substance which does not meet the criteria for inclusion in Category A. This can be human, animal, bacterial, viral, or fungal material transported for research, diagnosis, disease, or treatment.
Patient/Animal SpecimensPatient and animal specimens for which there is likelihood that pathogens are present.
Chemical Preservatives (Dangerous Goods in Excepted Quantities)Biological specimens containing chemical preservatives such as ethanol, formaldehyde, or formalin.
Dry iceFrozen carbon dioxide that sublimates into gas.

The following substances are not required to follow the IATA or DOT regulations, but are still subject to U-M restrictions on moving materials around campus:

  • Materials that do not contain pathogens or only contains inactivated or neutralized pathogens
  • Environmental samples that do not pose a significant threat of infection (i.e, food, water soil, or dust samples)
  • Dried blood spots or fecal occult screening tests
  • Blood or blood components collected for the purpose of transfusion
  • Tissue or organs used for transplantation
  • Patient specimens

If you are not sure how to classify your materials or need additional information on shipping biological materials, please contact EHS Biological Safety for assistance at (734) 647-1143 or

M-SHIP: Shipping Hazardous Materials at U-M

Packaging Requirements for Biological Substances and Hazardous Materials

Importation of Biological Materials

Transporting Biological Substances on U-M Campus

Training for Shippers of Biological Materials to Off-site Locations

Shipping with Dry Ice


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