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Shipping with Dry Ice

First discovered by French chemist Charles Thilorier in 1834, dry ice has become the better and more cost effective method when shipping perishable items. Dry ice has a temperature lower than frozen water at -109 F or -78 C and doesn’t melt but turns into a gas. Due to the extreme temperature of dry ice, it cannot be physically touched as frostbite can quickly occur. Since dry ice doesn’t melt into a liquid form like water, safety cautions must be taken when using it.

Why Use Dry Ice?

Shipping frozen or perishable food with dry ice keeps items cold while saving product waste and money. Solid carbon dioxide converts to a gaseous state instead of into a liquid state as it warms up. Due to its much colder freezing point, a pound of dry ice has three times the cooling capacity as a block of wet ice. This makes dry ice more cost efficient and effective.
There is no liquid mess when the package opens nor is there any liquid to destroy package contents when shipped with perishable food items. Dry ice saves you the extra cost of shipping with wet ice and ensures that the package arrives without water damage or water damaged product.

Safety Requirements

Manufacturers shipping food or biological materials that need to stay frozen ship these items on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday unless those days are holidays. Container and shipping systems have been specially designed for shipping with dry ice.

Due to the nature of dry ice, certain protocols must be followed when being used to ship. Things such as explosions due to the gaseous end state of dry ice as well as skin contact hazards makes using dry ice a bit more difficult. In order to help prevent these risks, follow these rules.

  1. Gas venting packaging – The packaging needs to allow carbon dioxide to escape as dry ice sublimates or converts from a solid to a gas. Dry ice must not be packaged in an airtight container.
  2. Packaging integrity – The package has to be able to withstand the shipping and handling process as well as the extreme cold temperature of the dry ice itself. For example, do not use plastic containers as the dry ice can damage or weaken the material. Strengthened Styrofoam containers with special venting will work best. Do not use Styrofoam coolers from the grocery store as they are not able to withstand the loading and unloading process.
  3. Proper labeling – The United States and International shipping regulations require the container to be properly labeled. Please check with your shipping carrier to ensure that the proper labeling will be used.
  4. Proper handling – Use protective gloves when handling dry ice. Lack of protective wear will result in frostbite if dry ice makes contact with human skin.

Shipping Regulations

Both the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have regulations concerning shipping with dry ice.

If your package is being shipped via air transport, the amount of dry ice cannot exceed five pounds. If the package is being shipped via ground transport, the poundage of dry ice is unlimited.

All shipments containing dry ice must have a Class 9 DOT miscellaneous hazardous material warning label and be clearly marked “Carbon Dioxide Solid, UN1845” or “Dry Ice, UN1845.”

How Much Do I Need?

Depending on where you are shipping your package to, how long it will take to get there, and how much frozen breast milk you’re sending, the amount of dry ice needed will vary. Check with the company you’re purchasing dry ice from for more information.

For a general idea, Continental Carbonic, a dry ice company, recommendations of the amount of dry ice needed for shipping can be found by following this link.

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