How to Classify Biological Samples

This document is intended to assist clients with classifying biological samples for shipping purposes. Any description of your biological samples on shipping documents must include the species, the sample type, and the infectious nature. For example “human serum, non-infectious”. This document is for information purposes only and does not replace requirements mandated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), United Nations and other governing bodies. Much of the information contained in this document can be found in the UMC Shipment of Biological Materials Manual (Glode and Gillum, 2006).

PART 1: Classification of Biological / Hazardous Materials

UN numbers are assigned by the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods to identify hazardous substances in international travel. The UN numbers are given in brackets adjacent to the corresponding hazard.

Category A Infectious Substances (Hazard Class 6.2): Substances that cause permanent disability, life threatening or fatal disease either in humans (UN2814) or animals (UN2900). Examples of these substances are listed in UMC Shipment of Biological Materials Manual. Eve Technologies does not perform services on category A infectious substances.

Category B Infectious Substances (Hazard Class 6.2): Substances that are infectious but do not meet the criteria for inclusion in Category A. In other words, the substance is not capable of causing permanent disability, life threatening or fatal disease (UN3373). Eve Technologies may conduct services on category B infectious substances. The service proposal is evaluated for safety and the decision is made on a case by case basis.

Non infectious substances: Substances that do not contain pathogens or infectious agents that could cause disease in animals or humans. Substances that are classified as non-infectious can include blood based samples, tissue cultures, and other biological samples.

Additional Hazards:

Miscellaneous Hazards (Hazard Class 9): This class includes Dry Ice (UN1845), and non-pathogenic genetically modified organisms (GMO) (UN3245).

Genetically Modified Organisms: Organisms altered via genetic engineering through unnatural means. GMOs that are non-infectious but can still alter plants, animals and microorganisms in a way that can not be achieved via natural reproduction are classified as hazard class 9 substances (UN3245). If the GMOs are infectious they fall in either the category A (affecting humans: UN2814, affecting animals: UN2900) or category B (UN3373) infectious substances classes.

Non Human or Animal Samples: Substances such as environmental food and water samples are also exempt from various shipping restrictions if they are non pathogenic. If they are suspected to cause disease they must be classified as a Category A (affecting humans: UN2814, affecting animals: UN2900) or category B (UN3373) infectious substance.

PART 2: Classifying Human & Animal Specimens

A Patient Specimen is defined as: Material collected directly from humans or animals, including, but not limited to, excreta, secreta, blood and its components, tissue and tissue fluid swabs, and body parts being transported for purposes such as research, diagnosis, investigational activities, disease treatment and prevention (excluding fixed slides).

There are two scenarios that can occur when planning to ship patient samples:

  1. If pathogens are expected to be present in the patient sample it must be classified as a Category A (affecting humans: UN2814, affecting animals: UN2900) or category B (UN3373) infectious substance. Eve Technologies does not perform services on category A substances. Eve Technologies may conduct services on category B infectious substances. Category B service proposals are evaluated for safety and the decision is made on a case by case basis.
  2. If there is a minimal likelihood that the human or animal specimen contains pathogens it is not considered to be a hazard class 6.2 substance and is exempt from many shipping requirements. For example, there is no UN number required.

**Professional judgment is required to determine if the specimen causes disease. Patient samples are not assumed to be pathogenic unless there is a specific reason to think that they are. For example: medical history, symptoms etc.

Any description of your biological samples on shipping documents must include the species, the sample type, and the infectious nature. For example “human serum, non-infectious”.