Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Shipping and Transporting Biological Materials
University Biosafety Manual, Section 4.8

  • Do not attempt to ship biohazardous/ recombinant materials or agents, chemicals, or radiological materials. Contact EHS when you have these shipping needs so that certified, trained shippers can ensure all packaging and documentation regulations are followed. Significant financial penalties can result from noncompliance with shipping regulations.
  • Contact an EHS Biosafety Officer if you need to ship biohazardous materials to domestic or international destinations:
    Chris Wakley540-231-3361cwakley@vt.edu
    Anna Kroner540-231-1122acastigl@vt.edu
  • Certified shippers in the Biosafety group will package and ship biohazardous materials in accordance with international/ federal/ state regulations. They perform this task for the university community, and supply the outer package materials.

Shipping Biological Materials to Domestic and International Destinations

  • Make contact with the EHS Biosafety Group at least 3 working days before your preferred shipment date; allow longer for international shipments.
  • Shipments should be mailed on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to expedite reaching their destination within that business week, which is particularly important for shipments on dry ice that could warm if delivery is delayed over a weekend.
  • A certified shipper of hazardous materials at EHS will work with you to prepare the shipment:
    1. The sender completes a Biohazardous Shipping Request Form and submits it to the EHS certified shipper, who 1) determines how the shipment must be classified according to biosafety level, presence of chemicals/preservatives, etc., and 2) schedules a shipment date with the sender.
    2. EHS certified shipper discusses specifics with the sender: 1) sender must obtain needed permits prior to shipment; 2) sender must arrange for payment of the vendor; 3) sender must provide cold packs or dry ice in appropriate quantity, if needed, at time of packaging for shipment. Your EHS certified shipper will let you know the quantity of dry ice you will need to provide.
    3. EHS certified shipper will determine and provide the appropriate packaging system, attach required labels/ markings to outer package, and prepare airway bill and other needed documents.
    4. EHS certified shipper arrives at sender’s research laboratory on agreed-upon date/time, and works with sender to package the shipment. The EHS certified shipper will take the sealed package to EHS for pickup by the carrier.

Transporting Biological Materials

Moving Biohazardous Materials from One Work Area to Another

  • Transport outside of the laboratory but within the building -- Place within a durable, leak-proof container, such as a plastic sterilite box plus lid; close lid and disinfect the outside container before removing from the room. Either the primary or the secondary container must be labeled with the biohazard symbol.
  • Transport outside the building -- Seal the material in a primary tube/flask or other leak-proof container; place biohazard symbol on this container. Disinfect the container before placing in a durable, leak-proof, lidded secondary transport box or container. The secondary container will be disinfected and securely closed for transport.
  • For added safety, containers should be transported on a cart to further minimize spill hazards.
  • If material must be transported in a vehicle from one building to another on campus, use of a state vehicle is recommended.

Transporting Biohazardous Waste to Autoclave Facilities

  • Waste must be securely closed and sprayed thoroughly with 70% ethanol.
  • Waste must be placed within a secondary container (e.g., Nalgene or stainless steel pan, plastic lidded tub, etc.) which is dedicated for this function and labeled with a Biohazard label.
  • Place in secondary containers on a cart to autoclave facilities.

Further Information and Guidance:

EHS Biosafety Group