Safe Specimen Shipping

Specimens arrive at Mayo Medical Laboratories in berry-colored shipping boxes.
Specimens arrive at Mayo Medical Laboratories in berry-colored shipping boxes.

A recent article in Laboratory Manager discusses safe packaging and shipping for specimens in laboratories. As many of these specimens are potentially dangerous, it's important to have protocols in place for handling, storage and disposal.

According to the article, there are two regulated categories of specimens established by IATA and ICAO are Category A and Category B specimens. Both specimen types are regulated and require specific packaging and handling procedures designed to protect anyone who comes in contact with the package.

The article cited Mayo Medical Laboratories' guidelines to advise on how to handle these specimen categories. "Under Universal Precautions, all blood and body fluids are considered potentially infectious. To clarify the situation for air transport, the regulators redefined 'Infectious Substances.' Infectious substances are substances known to contain, or reasonably expected to contain, pathogens. These specimens must be packaged as infectious substances, following IATA Packing Instruction 620.4."

Mayo Medical Laboratories website also clarifies, "Specimens sent for diagnostic or investigational purposes are classified as biological substance, Category B. Similarly, most clinical laboratory tests (e.g., sodium, thyroid-stimulating hormone) are performed on what are considered to be Category B specimens. These specimens must be packaged following IATA Packing Instruction 650.5. If the culture being sent is not listed by IATA as a Category A infectious substance, then it can legally be sent as a Category B infectious substance, eliminating the need to prepare a Shipper's Declaration for Dangerous Goods or to use a UN-certified container with the Class 6 hazard label."

According to Mayo Medical Laboratories, every laboratory must understand and follow regulations for shipping infectious substances affecting humans. "It is the responsibility of the shipper [the send-out lab] to ensure correct identification, classification, packaging, labeling, marking and documentation for all shipments of infectious substances. In addition, the shipper is responsible for ensuring that all persons involved in the transport of infectious substances receive the required initial and recurrent training."

Read the full article to learn more about safe shipping for specimens.


Kelley Schreiber

Kelley Schreiber is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her new kitten, and exploring new foods.