Shipping with Dry Ice


A dry ice shipping container includes a foam insulating liner, which may be specially formed to support the product, and a heavy pasteboard outer container for overall protection.

Frozen and perishable products such as meat, fish, poultry and ice cream can be successfully shipped using dry ice. Dry ice is carbon dioxide kept solid at the extremely low temperature of -109.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have set federal rules that govern the shipment of dry ice due to the potential dangers of the substance if not handled properly. A product needs to be packaged in dry ice for shipping if the material is perishable. The IATA defines a shipment as perishable if the product can “deteriorate over a given period of time if exposed to harsh environmental conditions, such as excessive temperature or humidity”.

Advantages to Shipping with Dry Ice/Basic Requirements for Shipping with Dry Ice

Pictured above is a 10 lb. poly pack of standard dry ice pellets, used extensively for shipping products with dry ice.

Dry ice shipping keeps your shipment cold easily and inexpensively. With three times the pound-for-pound cooling capacity of ordinary wet ice, it’s very cost-effective. Your product stays clean and dry: no messy water melt from wet ice or mess from broken gel packs. The largest advantage of shipping with dry ice is that unlike water, dry ice has no liquid state – it sublimates, or turns directly from a solid to a gas. Therefore, when a product is shipped with dry ice, the packaging material and the product itself will not be saturated with liquid and ultimately damaged.

Most shippers of food or biological specimens that must be kept frozen insist on shipping on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday unless those days are holidays. Special container systems have been developed for shipping with dry ice.

Shipping with dry ice can also be potentially dangerous, with risks including explosion, suffocation and contact hazards. These risks can be properly managed by simply following basic rules and requirements for shipping with dry ice.

  1. Gas Venting – packages must allow for release of carbon dioxide gas. The dry ice must not be sealed in a container with an airtight seal. Continental Carbonic offers a selection of appropriate dry ice shipping containers.
  2. Package integrity – the packaging carrying the shipment and the dry ice must be able to withstand the loading and unloading process and must be closed properly in order to prevent loss of contents that can be caused by vibration and/or changes in temperature, humidity or altitude.
  3. Packaging Materials – no plastics should be used that could be damaged or weakened by the use of dry ice.
  4. Proper Labeling – the shipping container must be clearly labeled with a hazard class 9 label, UN 1845 on the vertical side of the container and must display the weight of the dry ice in kilograms. [see photo at right]

Dry Ice Shipping Regulations

For air transport, the amount of dry ice per parcel is limited to five pounds or less, but it’s generally unlimited for ground shipments. Shipments containing dry ice must carry a Class 9 DOT miscellaneous hazardous material warning label, and must be clearly marked “Carbon Dioxide Solid, UN1845” or “Dry Ice, UN1845”. With five pounds of dry ice, the package would need to be delivered within 24 hours, as the recommendation for ordinary cooler use is 10 pounds per day. Biological material is often a dry ice shipment, which may have additional special requirements provided by the cold chain industry.