FOCUS ON: Dry Ice-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Dry Ice, solidified carbon dioxide, is a common presence in our laboratories and has a number of hazards associated with it which we should all be aware of.  The primary hazard is certainly the extreme cold of the material: -109o F.  Any handling of dry ice must be with gloves, with sufficient protection to address these very low temperatures.  Dry ice should be stored in an insulated container; the better the insulation, the longer the dry ice will stay in solid form.  DO NOT, however, use an air-tight container.  As the dry ice sublimates (passes directly from the solid state to the gaseous form) carbon dioxide is released.  In an enclosed area, this can displace oxygen to a dangerously low level.

dry ice placard

Shipping or transport of dry ice has its own set of concerns, largely due to the potential of overwhelming carbon dioxide release in a small area (such as a truck or airplane).  First of all, there are limits to the amounts permitted to be carried by passengers on aircraft (in their luggage.)  Secondly, shipment by common carrier, but either ground or air is also strictly controlled.  If you are going to be shipping something with dry ice (AND NO OTHER HAZARDS!), please check out a training session on the EH&S web page.  Completion and documenting this training will enable you to ship such packages on your own.  The training is located at: Look for the session called:  DOT Shipping with Dry Ice.

If you are shipping dry ice that contains other hazards, EH&S will need to be involved. Use this link to request assistance with such shipments:

By: Mark Banister,, 412-268-1493