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Interpretation Response #08-0209 ([Biodiversity Research Institute University of Kansas] [Mr. Andrew Bentley])

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

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: Biodiversity Research Institute University of Kansas

Individual Name: Mr. Andrew Bentley

Location State: KS Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

December 22, 2008


Mr. Andrew Bentley
Biodiversity Research Institute
University of Kansas
1345 Jayhawk Boulevard
Lawrence, KS 66045

Ref. No.: 08-0209

Dear Mr. Bentley:

This responds to you letter regarding the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) as they apply to the transportation of fluid preserved research specimens of mammals, birds, fishes, insects and other invertebrates, and amphibians and reptiles. While many of your specimens are "dry" (skeletons, skins, pinned insects), a significant number are stored or transported moistened in 70% ethanol solution, a standard practice in natural history museums worldwide. Still others are stored or transported "wet" in 95% ethanol for genetic or DNA extraction purposes.

You state that you represent two organizations whose members include natural history museums and collections worldwide (The Society for Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) and the Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSCA)). You have been tasked with attempting to resolve issues involving shipping specimens both domestically and internationally between museums and individual researchers studying the life of the planet as it pertains to biodiversity, ecology, genetics, conservation, evolution, and virtually any other aspect of natural history.

Your members were discussing two previous interpretations regarding zoology specimens shipped in 70% ethanol solution (Ref. No. 05-0139; 8/9/05) and invertebrates stored in 70% ethanol solution (Ref. No. 07-0076; 8/2/07). Specifically, you asked for clarification of these responses. Your current shipping procedures vary depending on the type of specimen being shipped. The various scenarios include:

" Specimens wrapped in cheesecloth wet with 70% ethanol with little or no visible fluid at time of packaging, and
" Specimens placed in vials or other rigid containers with 30 ml or less of 70% or 95% ethanol (fluid preserved specimens)

Your current shipping procedures use triple-bagging and absorbent and shock-absorbing material to protect the specimens. The larger vertebrate and invertebrate specimens are removed from their storage jars and wrapped in cheesecloth moistened with 70% ethanol. The cheesecloth-wrapped specimens are then placed into a plastic bag. The bag is closed with a heat sealer. The bag is subsequently heat-sealed inside a second bag, which is then heat-sealed inside a third bag, along with an appropriate amount of absorbent material. The bags are then packed in sturdy cardboard boxes (200 lb test weight) and cushioned by Styrofoam packing "peanuts".

The previous responses were provided on a case-by-case basis, and do not necessarily address all types of transportation scenarios. The two previous requests for interpretation described the packing methods used in both scenarios as having "little or no visible free-flowing liquid at the time they are sealed." Consequently, it was our opinion that the procedures and methods described in these letters and used for shipment of the cheesecloth-wrapped specimens moistened with 70% ethanol to protect the specimens from drying out and damage, and the fluid preserved dry specimens in shell vials of less than 30 ml of 70% ethanol to prevent desiccation, mitigate the minimal hazard that may be present during transportation.

Based on the information provided in your letter, it is the opinion of this Office that in accordance §173.120(d), shipments of zoological specimens preserved in ethanol that are packaged as described in your letter are not subject to regulation under the HMR.

I hope this information is helpful. If we can be of further assistance, please contact us.



Charles E. Betts
Chief, Standards Development
Office of Hazardous Materials Standards


Regulation Sections

Section Subject
173.120 Class 3-Definitions
173.185 Lithium cells and batteries