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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Packaging and Shipping Infectious Materials. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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IATA and US Postal Service Exempt Specimens

"Exempt specimen" is a specimen category that is used by both IATA and the US Postal Service (USPS) to indicate a patient specimen that is unlikely to cause disease in humans or animals or for which there is only a minimal likelihood that pathogens are present. Requirements for packaging exempt specimens are shown in the table below.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has no "Exempt Specimen" classification and there are no DOT guidelines for packaging non-regulated* specimens. According to the DOT, if a package is marked as "Exempt Human/Animal Specimen" the understanding is that it contains no infectious substance.
Packaging Issue



Type of packaging requiredTriple packaging, as shown on the right
Triple packaging, as shown on the right
Outer container
  • One dimension must be a minimum of 100 mm X 100 mm (approximately 4 x 4 inches)
  • Must be able to survive a drop test of 4 feet
  • One dimension must be a minimum of 100 mm X 100 mm (approximately 4 x 4 inches)
  • Must be able to survive a drop test of 4 feet

Quantity limits: outer container

None None
Quantity limits: Primary receptacleNone500 mL
Quantity limits: secondary packaging


500 mL

* Non-regulated specimens may become regulated because of preservatives, such as 10% formaldehyde (class 9) or 25% formaldehyde (class 8); or 25% ethanol (class 3). Note that 10% formalin, which is often used as a preservative in biopsy specimens, only contains 3-4% formaldehyde and is therefore not regulated.