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Is what you’re sending dangerous?

Whatever you might be sending by courier, you need to be aware that some substances and materials can be harmful and might be subject to special safety precautions and measures. Something you think is harmless could actually pose a significant threat to the safety of others, no matter what mode of transport it is delivered by. It isn’t always obvious which materials these may be, so it’s always best to check with the courier beforehand to determine which items are subject to precautions, whether customs checks and charges will be needed and to ensure that the item is properly packaged and labelled.


A biohazard can be any substance which is harmful to humans and animals, for example blood or any other bodily fluids, as these can carry infectious diseases and are likely to contain harmful bacteria or viruses. Medical waste – such as disposable needles or surgical instruments which have been in contact with any of the above are also classed as biohazardous materials. Although we may not realise it, some of these substances can also be carried on unregulated foodstuffs and plants, which is why perishable goods are also subject to stringent tests and regulations – especially if they are headed abroad.

Electronic goods and explosive materials

Most domestic electrical equipment is usually fine to send by courier subject to security checks, however there are a number of items which need prior checks to determine suitability to travel. Common electronic goods sent by courier include radios, laptops and computer parts and appliances – all of which at first glance appear harmless. However portable radio transmitting devices and radio control systems (e.g. radio-controlled cars and toys) are restricted for air travel as the signals they emit can interfere with aircraft instrumentation, and lithium batteries also have many restrictions in place because they can contain high levels of energy. If they short circuit during transit, they can produce lots of heat. If they are damaged, then the chemical components can catch fire – and this obviously has serious safety implications. Lithium batteries are used in all kinds of everyday electrical equipment, from computers to mobile phones.

Other potentially explosive materials include alcohol and tobacco – these are only a problem if carried in large amounts. Acids which can be found in wheelchair or car batteries are subject to restrictions and checks too.

Chemicals and Gases

Chemicals such as bleach, chlorine, tear gas and spray paint carry strict restrictions on the amount carried depending on which mode of transportation is utilised. The labelling of such items to advise handling agents of which hazardous chemicals are contained within is incredibly important.

Small compressed gas cartridges such as the type found in hair curlers are acceptable to travel without checks as long as they are secured in the curler with the lid in place. Other larger gas canisters or any flammable gases are prohibited for air travel.


For more information on dangerous goods and the types of items you can send via air or courier, contact us for free, friendly advice.

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