USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #07-0087 ([The Council on Safe Transportation of Hazardous Articles, Inc.] [Mr. John V. Currie])

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: The Council on Safe Transportation of Hazardous Articles, Inc.

Individual Name: Mr. John V. Currie

Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

Jun 7, 2007


Mr. John V. Currie                 Reference No. 07-0087
The Council on Safe Transportation
   of Hazardous Articles, Inc.
7803 Hill House Court
Fairfax Station, VA 22039

Dear Mr. Currie:

This is in response to your February 20, 2007 letter to Mr. Bob Richard, Deputy Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, concerning how to transport packages that contain blood and urine samples that do not meet the definition for a hazardous material under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180). You state these samples are placed in packages that are pre-printed with the words “Diagnostic Specimen.” Your letter was forwarded to the Office of Hazardous Materials Standards for reply. We paraphrased and answered your questions below.

Q1.      To ensure continued compliance with the HMR, must a carrier ask the offeror if every package displaying the marking “DIAGNOSTIC SPECIMEN” contains an infectious substance to learn whether or not it contains this material? If carriers do not ask the offerors this question, are they at risk of committing a probable violation of the HMR based on their potential knowledge of the contents?

Al.        The answer to both questions is no. Effective October 1, 2006, under Docket No. PHMSA-2004-16895 (HM-226A; 6/2/06), we replaced the proper shipping name and marking “Diagnostic specimen” with “Biological substances, Category B” and a diamond-shaped mark containing the letters and numbers “UN 3373” printed at least 6 mm (0.24 inches) high. See § 173.199(a)(5). Although the HMR do not prohibit the words “Diagnostic specimen” from being marked on a package, on and after October 1, 2006, these words may no longer be used to denote a Division 6.2 (infectious) material. Note, however, in accordance with § 172.101(1), stocks of preprinted shipping papers or package markings may continue in use until depleted or for one year after the October 1, 2006 effective date, whichever is less. A carrier is not required to question the offeror on whether or not a package marked “DIAGNOSTIC SPECIMEN” contains a Division 6.2 material; however, it may be in the carrier’s best interest to do so to ensure he or she is not inadvertently transporting an item meeting the definition of a hazardous material.

Q2.      Do the HMR prohibit shippers from displaying the words “DIAGNOSTIC SPECIMEN” on all packages? Are we correct in assuming it is not a prohibited marking?
A2.      The HMR do not prohibit display of the words “DIAGNOSTIC SPECIMEN” on a package.

Q3.      May a shipper offering patient specimens exempt from regulation under the HMR to an international transport carrier call them diagnostic specimens when transporting these materials in the United States?

A3.      Yes.

I hope this satisfies your request.



Hattie L. Mitchell, Chief
Regulatory Review and Reinvention
Office of Hazardous Materials Standards

172.101, 173.199 (a)(5)

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
172.101 Purpose and use of hazardous materials table
173.199 Category B infectious substances