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Keep It Cool: Shipping with Dry Ice

While its name may suggest otherwise, dry ice isn't composed of frozen water. In fact, dry ice is a form of carbon dioxide. At an extremely low temperature-approximately -110° F-carbon dioxide turns into a solid. When dry ice "melts" it does not become a liquid. It goes directly from a solid to a gas, making dry ice an ideal shipping medium. This process, known as sublimation, prevents products and packaging material from being exposed to water saturation. Dry ice is commonly used to ship toxic and infectious substances, which are Class 6 substances in the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulation (DGR).

Class 6 dangerous goods are classified based on whether they are toxic or infectious substances. Substances are considered toxic if ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact poses the risk of harm, injury, or fatality. Substances are considered infectious if they are known pathogens or are reasonably expected to contain pathogens, which covers a variety of materials shipped in the medical industry. Dry ice is commonly used in IATA clinical shipping to transport biological products derived from living organisms (for example, vaccinations), biological cultures, patient specimens, and medical and clinical wastes.

Class 6

Dry ice is itself hazardous. It is identified as UN 1845 and is a Class 9 hazardous substance. When not correctly packaged, dry ice can burn skin (when in solid form), suffocate, and even explode. Materials requiring dry ice as a refrigerant during shipment are often shipped by air due to the time-sensitive or urgent nature of the shipment. Non-dangerous goods must be considered and handled as dangerous goods when shipped with dry ice.

IATA dry ice training ensures safe handling and transportation of this hazardous material when used in air transport. Dry ice must be packed in accordance with Packing Instruction 954. In addition to withstanding the normal rigors of air transport, dry ice packaging must be designed and constructed to withstand extremely low temperatures and to provide adequate gas venting.

Many plastic materials become brittle or permeable when exposed to low temperatures. Look for Styrofoam or packaging systems specifically intended for dry ice. Acceptable packaging must prevent changes in temperature, altitude, and humidity from affecting the package's contents.

As dry ice sublimates, it releases a large volume of carbon dioxide gas. A dry ice container with an airtight seal does not allow for proper gas venting and could explode from pressure buildup. In addition, excess carbon dioxide in a confined or poorly ventilated space reduces the amount of available oxygen, putting operators at risk of asphyxiation.

Proper packaging reduces the risk to those transporting and handling materials packed in dry ice. Adequate labeling, including the Class 9 hazard label and the UN 1845 label, ensure that proper safety procedures are followed.

Federal regulations require IATA training for anyone involved with the shipment and transportation of toxic and infectious substances using dry ice. Our IATA DGR Class 6 Shipping online training course satisfies all air carrier requirements for proof of training, including those for UPS and FedEx. Since 2008, we've been helping companies stay compliant with safety standards and regulations through our high quality, easy-to-use online training courses. To learn more or get started, contact us today at Compliance Training Online.

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