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Shipping Chemical and Biological Materials

Transportation of chemical and biological materials is an activity that affects all research and diagnostic service entities. In some instances, these materials may be regulated for transportation and will require specific packaging, labeling and documentation. Additionally, the shipper must have documented training relative to his or her tasks associated with the shipment. This is the case for shipment of:

  • Chemicals
  • Diagnostic specimens (from humans or animals)
  • Cultures of infectious substances (infectious to humans and/or animals)
  • Plant pathogens and plant materials
  • Genetically modified organisms
  • Dry ice

In light of recent current events, there is an increased level of surveillance on the part of federal and international authorities for all hazardous materials/dangerous goods shipments. As a shipper, it is essential to assure that materials are properly classified and that all applicable regulatory provisions for shipment are met.

Impact of non-compliance:

  • Increased risk of material release during the shipping process,
  • May result in refusal or return of packages during the shipping process. This could be critical if materials are temperature sensitive.
  • May result in fines from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Hazardous Materials and Your Luggage:

Pack Safe - Spending 5 minutes checking your luggage for hazardous materials gets us all there safer.


Before you package and ship materials to an off campus destination there are several items that should be taken care of. These paperwork requirements can take several weeks to complete, therefore you should prepare well in advance for them.

1. Material Transfer Agreements

When materials are being transferred between universities and research groups at other organizations there are various concerns that need to be addressed. It is important to ensure that:

  • The intellectual property rights of the receiving and the providing organization are addressed
  • Any special shipping needs are handled
  • The University has a record of the types of materials that are entering our campus
  • Any health and safety risks are identified and addressed

MSU Technologies requires that a Material Transfer Agreement be completed for materials entering or leaving campus. Before you send your shipment it is important that you contact MSU Technologies to ensure that the appropriate agreements are completed and processed.

You can contact MSU Technologies at 355-2186, or you can view their website at

2. Export Controls and Trade Sanctions

Export controls and trade sanctions are regulatory areas that may apply to you, depending on your activity. Exports are any items (commodities, software, technology, select biological agents) sent from the United States to a foreign destination. Exports are also the release or sharing of restricted technology or data - orally or in writing - with non-U.S. citizen foreign nationals inside or outside the U.S.

Some chemicals, biologics and select agents are export controlled and unauthorized access by restricted parties (e.g., a deemed export) may be a violation of export control laws. Export control laws require that licenses be obtained for exports, including "deemed" exports, of these sensitive items (e.g., defense articles, restricted technology with military applications, select agents), unless an exemption exists.

Export control laws may apply when one or more of the following concerns pertain to your research project:

  • It has actual or potential military applications, including dual use items (i.e., commercial items with potential military application)
  • The destination country, organization, or individual is restricted by federal law
  • The declared or suspected end use or the end user of the export compromises national security
  • Economic protection issues are associated with the destination country

If you have questions about whether there are export controls issues associated with your activity, contact:

The Office of Export Controls and Trade Sanctions
Hannah Administration Building
426 Auditorium Road, Room 238
Michigan State University
East Lansing , MI 48824
Phone: 517-432-4499

If you require additional information on export controls visit the MSU Export Controls Web Site:

3. Permits

The CDC, USDA and other regulatory agencies require permits for shipping certain etiological agents and other materials. Click here for additional information.

When in doubt, PLEASE ASK!

•  For more information on biological materials shipping requirements, please contact Jamie Willard (353-1877), Stephanie Smith-Edwards (355-1283), or Kristen Bullard (353-6710) at EHS.

•  For more information on chemical shipping requirements, please contact Nathan Maher (884-6185) at University Stores.

•  For assistance with proper classification of chemical shipments, please contact EHS (355-0153).

•  For assistance with Material Transfer Agreement requirements, please contact MSU Technologies (355-2186).

•  For assistance with export controls issues, please contact The Office of Export Controls and Trade Sanctions (432-4499).

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