The transportation of biological and hazardous materials and equipment is highly regulated by Transport Canada via the Canadian Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and Regulations (TDG) and the International Air Transport Association. uOttawa personnel are required to adhere to the strict training and packaging requirements from these entities. Guidance and training is available to help researchers transport their materials safely and lawfully.

If you are sending biological materials or chemical compounds (ranging from specific molecules, such as pharmaceuticals, nucleotides or proteins, to biological research tools such as cell cultures, cell lines, plasmids, transgenic plants or animals), you may also require a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) and Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). These research support agreements are legal documents that are designed to ensure protection of your research or to protect information or materials obtained from an external source. The MTA controls the use of transferred materials when material is sent or received by the University of Ottawa.

What is a Hazardous Material?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods placards

Hazardous materials represent just about anything that can cause harm to people, property or the environment. They are classified into one of nine classes of dangerous goods (with associated subdivisions) depending on their inherent characteristics.

  • Class 1 – Explosives
  • Class 2 – Gases
  • Class 3 – Flammable Liquids
  • Class 4 – Flammable Solids
  • Class 5 – Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides
  • Class 6 – Toxic and Infectious Substances
  • Class 7 – Radioactive Materials
  • Class 8 – Corrosive Substances
  • Class 9 – Miscellaneous Products, Substances or Organisms

For international shipments: Help Us Help You

So that we can properly and efficiently assist you, you will need:
  • Request a commercial invoice online to help your shipment pass through Customs and avoid import duties
    • Note: A commercial invoice is only necessary if the destination for your shipment is outside Canada.
    • Note: We require a minimum of 48 hours notice to prepare your commercial invoice.
  • A shipping document, such as a FedEx waybill, available from the RGN Receiving Department (room 1129A).
    • Note: The forms vary depending on whether your parcel’s destination is domestic or abroad. Do not complete Section 4 (Shipment Information) and do not sign the document; we will do that for you.
  • A suitable shipping container.
    • Saf-T-Pak sells many great examples
    • As long as a shipping container is in good condition, it can continue to be reused.
  • The correct safety marks for your container. We maintain a supply of the regularly used stickers.

Important considerations when shipping with dry ice

If you must send a frozen shipment using dry ice as a refrigerant, make sure you have both an insulated shipping container (comprised of a Styrofoam/polystyrene inner box and a rigid cardboard outer box), and of course, a suitable quantity of dry ice. We recommend 2.5 kg of dry ice per day for every day you expect it to be in transit.

Dry ice, also known as “carbon dioxide, solid”, is regulated as a Class 9 dangerous good. This is because it displaces oxygen as it evaporates. To avoid the likelihood of pressurized carbon dioxide rupturing your parcel, only tape the centre where the flaps meet on top of the box.

Shipping risks

Shipping companies like FedEx have mastered the logistics of getting parcels from one point to another, but things don’t always go as planned.

  • How will you react if you learn your parcel has gone missing en route?  Will you be able to send another sample/specimen? 
  • If you must send your parcel on dry ice, we strongly recommend that you only send it on a Monday or Tuesday. If you choose to send it later in the week and it ends up on a loading dock late Friday afternoon, there’s a good chance the dry ice will have completely evaporated before it reaches the intended recipient and your samples will have thawed.
  • You may require other documentation, like an import permit, for the receiving country. These often take several weeks to obtain, so contact us early in the process to discuss.


The TDG Regulations require copies of all paperwork to be held for a period of two years. Electronic copies are acceptable.

Additional information concerning the Transportation of Dangerous Goods is available on the uOttawa Office of Risk Management’s website.

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