Which “Specimens” Can I Transport in a Biohazard Pouch?

biohazard warning label plastic bag


There are a number of people and organizations who may need to transport biological specimens. From hospitals to research organizations, from universities to private businesses and even individuals, the reasons for requiring transportation using biohazard pouches are virtually endless.

However, knowledge of how, when, and why to use biohazard packaging is often lacking, including among those who use it on a daily basis in their work.

We will help you understand the importance of using appropriate biohazard containers for transporting biological specimens, why you or your organization may need to use these types of containers, and which types of specimens can be transported using biohazard pouches in particular.

Why is Biohazard Packaging Required?

Biohazard packaging is required for one simple reason: to protect people — workers and others — from the potential harms associated with exposure to biological materials such as urine, blood, other bodily fluids or pathogens.

The packaging serves as a simple warning that the contents contained within are potential health hazards as they come from another human body. The biohazard symbol is an important sign for both package handlers and end recipients that special precautions must be taken to prevent potential transmission of pathogens from the sample contained within.

Examples of the types of health hazards that biological tissues or specimens could carry include HIV, hepatitis, salmonella, and other bacteria and viruses that humans and bodily fluids can carry.

nurse holding test tube clinical lab

Types of Biohazard Packaging

There are many types of biohazard packaging available on the market today. It is essential to know the exact size and nature of the sample you will be transporting to understand the type of packaging you will require.

One easily recognized type of biohazard packaging that many people would recognize is the sharps container. These containers are made of a rigid plastic that is not easily permeable or penetrable and is used for containing needles, scalpels, and other small sharp objects that may be contaminated with blood or bodily fluids.

However, we will focus on biohazard pouches. These pouches come in a variety of dimensions to suit your needs, including 12.25″ x 16″, 9.5″ x 13.5″, and 9.5″ x 6.5″ dimensions. These pouches are made from an LDPE that is virtually 100 percent damage resistant, ensuring your specimens have no risk of leaking through and causing harm or being lost.

What Counts as Biologic Material (And Why Does It Matter)?

Biologic material, or biohazardous material, refers to any material that was once part of or came from a human or animal. But what does this mean about the safe transportation of substances?

Any human or animal body part is a biologic material and must be transported in appropriate biohazard packaging – such as a biohazard pouch. This means that donated organs, for example, fall into this category and must be packaged accordingly, as well as pieces of bone, muscle, or skin that are being used for medical, scientific, or other research purposes. Regardless of your reason for using these materials, using biohazard packaging that is appropriately labeled is a legal requirement.

However, the definition of “biological materials” extends far beyond organs, skin, or body parts. These include bodily wastes, such as urine and feces, as well as saliva, mucus, and blood. Even samples that constitute no more than a small collection of skin cells stored on a glass slide must be categorized as a biological specimen and transported as such.

health care worker handling hazardous waste

Types of Specimens for Transportation

Of course, there is a nearly endless array of the kinds of containers that might be placed in a biohazard pouch containing the types of materials that are required to be classed as biohazardous.

These include samples on slides and swabs, which may contain no more than a few skin swabs as well as traces of other bodily fluids.

Similarly, vials, specimen cups, or tubes of bodily fluids must always be transported in biohazard pouches. These include things like blood or urine samples being sent from a hospital to a specialist laboratory for further investigation.

Fragments of skin, bone, muscle, or other bodily tissues are transported as biohazardous materials without exception, and often a biohazard pouch is the most appropriate type of packaging for these sorts of bodily materials.

Organs for organ donation, many will be surprised to learn, are considered biohazardous materials as well and are treated as such. In fact, many types of organs are transported in similar pouches with the same familiar biohazard label of four circles affixed.

Transporting biological specimens may seem endlessly complicated to some, but it need not be. With a thorough understanding of what types of materials, substances, and samples are considered biohazardous, you can easily determine and implement the requirements.


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