Last Revised: March 15, 2024

Shipping of Hazardous Chemicals and Available EHRS Shipping Assistance 

EHRS can provide shipping training for shippers of biologicals, dry ice, and smaller quantities of hazardous chemicals (typically 30ml or less, depending on the material).  If you plan to ship chemicals and want to get trained, check with EHRS staff first to make sure that the training will cover the specific chemicals and quantities that you need to ship. 

Shipments of hazardous chemicals in larger quantities requires a higher level of training and for those shipments, EHRS staff can often act as the trained shipper.  EHRS does not offer this higher level of training. 

Chemical Shipment Guidance for Trained Shippers. 

If you have current shipping training and are shipping chemicals in excepted or very small quantities, follow the steps below: 

    1 - Enter your chemical shipment into eShip@Penn®, and be sure to check the box indicating that you are shipping a chemical.  All chemical shipments then get sent for review by EHRS.  This review takes place even if you have current training or you are shipping non-hazardous chemicals. 

    2 - Forward the SDS(s) for your shipment to the EHRS shipping team at SHIPPINGDG@LISTS.UPENN.EDU  

    3 - EHRS will review your shipment and will either approve or we may request additional information if needed. Domestic shipments are generally approved within 24-hours.    International shipments may take 48 hours.  International shipments may take longer for approval due to an additional review by the university Export Compliance group. 

    4 - Once approved, you will receive a notification from eShip and can then log in to print your shipping documents. 

    5 - Material Transfer Agreements (MTA’s) are also strongly recommended prior to shipping research material to any collaborators.   

    6 - For international shipments of non-regulated chemicals it is recommended to include a letter with the shipment details to help get the package through customs.  A sample template letter can be found here.

EHRS Shipping Assistance  

EHRS may be able to assist with chemical shipments in quantities above the excepted quantity limits or otherwise not permitted to be shipped under those provisions. 

EHRS can typically assist with the following types of chemicals shipments within the specified limitations. 

  • Chemical reagent/products being returned to manufacturers.   (You must have the complete original box/packaging and return authorization paperwork).   

  • Novel chemical compounds. (You must create a SDS for all new chemicals and identify any hazardous properties).  EHRS has a blank SDS form that can used. 

  • Chemical reagent shipments for collaborations.  If you need to ship reagents to a collaborator or field research location, it is always best order chemicals in advance and have them shipped directly to the collaborator or field location.  In some cases, EHRS can ship these types of chemicals for you.  (For any international or domestic air shipment of chemicals, the reagents must be in the original, unopened packaging and still be in new condition.  These packages must also be rated by the manufacture for air transport and EHRS can review and advise). 

  • For international shipments, lab staff must also check with the destination group to see if their country requires any special paperwork, a customs broker, etc. to get the package through customs.  EHRS is not responsible for customs issues and any related shipping delays. 

  • There are many additional limitations, such as certain chemicals being prohibited for air transport or not allowed in a specific country.  EHRS will advise if your shipment request cannot be satisfied due to regulatory or other issues. 

EHRS requires a minimum of 2 business days to review chemical shipment assistance requests.  To make a request, email the EHRS shipping team at SHIPPINGDG@LISTS.UPENN.EDU. Please include the chemical name(s), volume of each container, number of containers, destination address and the desired ship date.  After review and EHRS approval, we will respond and ask you to enter the shipment into eShip@Penn®. 

Also, never drop off your package at the EHRS office without consulting with an EHRS shipper first for approval.

General Shipping Tips 

For anything being shipped temperature controlled (dry ice, ice packs, etc.), avoid shipping on Thursday or Friday to avoid weekend delays that may compromise your samples. 

Smaller quantities of chemicals are generally much easier to ship.  If possible, limit novel chemicals to 1g/1 ml per inner container and for most other chemicals, limiting inner containers to 30ml/30g greatly simplifies and expedites the shipping process. 

Be sure to print out and include all the required paperwork for your shipment.  eShip will advise on how many copies of each document are required and note that international shipments require extra copies of paperwork in addition to the customs documents that eShip generates. 

General Packaging Guidelines 

DOT / IATA specify detailed requirements for how chemicals are packaged but the general guidelines below are the minimum needed to ship any type of chemical. 

    1 - A good strong outer box.  If you are reusing an old box, it must be in good condition with no rips, tears, holes or stains and there must not be any old markings/ hazard labels that were present from a previous shipment. 

    2 - Styrofoam boxes for insulation must be shipped inside a cardboard box and cannot be used as the primary outer packaging. 

    3 - All inner containers of liquids must have a secure lid and the lid must be secured with parafilm or tape.  Parafilm alone is not an adequate lid for any container type. 

    4 - Container of liquids must be placed inside a zip loc bag or other type of secondary containment with sufficient absorbent material* to handle the entire volume of liquid.  *Absorbent material must be compatible with the contents. For example, paper towels cannot be used for an oxidizing chemical that might have an adverse reaction.   

    5 - Containers of liquids must not be filled completely since headspace is required to allow expansion due to temperature and pressure changes during transit. 

    6 - EHRS will advise of any additional packaging limitations or requirements that may be needed.