Requirements for the Packaging and Transport of Pathology Specimens and Associated Materials 3rd Edition

Appendix D - Transporting exempt specimens by air (Normative)

Page last updated: 22 October 2012

Patient specimens for which there is minimal likelihood that pathogens are present are not subject to the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations if the specimen is transported in packaging that will prevent any leakage and that is marked with the words ‘Exempt human specimens’ or ‘Exempt animal specimens’, as appropriate.


The packaging of exempt specimens must consist of three components and done as follows:
  1. the primary receptacle(s) must be leakproof
  2. the primary receptacle(s) must be placed into leakproof secondary packaging with sufficient absorbent cushioning material to absorb the entire contents
  3. the secondary packaging must be placed into the outer packaging of adequate strength for its capacity, mass and intended use and with at least one surface having minimum dimensions of 100 mm 100 mm.

Unlike Category A and Category B packaging, this packaging does not need to be tested or certified.

See Table A7.1 for examples of suitable containers and packaging materials.

Table A7.1 Examples of containers and packaging for exempt specimens by air
DescriptionExamples of containers and packaging
Absorbent materialVernagel (not for formalin), cotton wool
Combine dressing (for formalin)
Cushioning materialCotton wool, shredded newspaper
Outer packagingCardboard box, supported polystyrene box, despatch satchel, plastic box
Primary receptacleBlood tube
Urine container
Histology specimen container
Secondary packagingPolycarbonate bottle with screw lid
Biohazard bag, snap-lock plastic bag

Marking and labelling

Package must be marked with:
  • name and address of sender
  • name and address of receiver
  • the words ‘Exempt human specimens’ or ‘Exempt animal specimens’, as appropriate
  • orientation labels if package contains 50 mL or more of liquid (see Figure 3.1).


A shipper’s declaration is not required. However, a consignment note or airway bill is required.

For packages containing 50 mL or more of liquid substances, two orientation labels must be used — one label must be affixed to each of two opposite sides of the package with the arrows pointing in the upright position.