Common Items that May Be Hazardous

Descriptions that Indicate Dangerous Goods

Watch for any of the following descriptions that could indicate Dangerous Goods or Hazardous Materials:

  • Acidic
  • Caustic
  • Combustible Communicable
  • Compressed Gas
  • Corrosive
  • Explosive
  • Flammable
  • Infectious
  • Inflammable
  • Poison
  • Radioactive
  • Refrigerated
  • Toxic
  • Volatile


PHMSA “Check the Box”
Learn How to Avoid Improper Shipment of Dangerous Goods

FAA “SafeCargo”
Learn How to Ship Hazardous Materials Safely


Certain specific terms may also be clues that dangerous goods and/or hazardous materials may be present. The table below identifies such trigger terms and the potential hazards they may indicate.

Specific Term

Potential Hazard

Air Bags

May contain Air Bag Inflators, or Air Bag Modules or Seat-Belt Pretensioner.

Air Conditioning Equipment

May contain gases under pressure.

Aircraft Parts

May contain such items as fuel control devices which cannot be fully purged of fuel and must be shipped regulated.

Auto Parts

May include carburetors, gas lines, or gas tanks which may contain gasoline.


May indicate the presence of mercury.


Come in a variety of sizes and types. Several types of batteries are regulated as hazardous materials, including spillable lead-acid batteries, many lithium batteries, etc. Positive protection against short circuits is essential, even for batteries that are not subject to applicable Hazardous Materials Regulations. (See Additional Battery Guidance below)

Breathing Apparatus

May mean oxygen cylinders under pressure.

Bull Semen

May signal the presence of dry ice or liquefied gas.

Camping Gear/Equipment

May include many different dangerous items such as: ammunition, batteries, cooking stoves, flammable gas, fire starting pastes, flammable liquids, heat producing packets, lighters, matches (both strike anywhere and safety type), signal flares, STERNO cooking/heating fuel (the structural tubing on certain types of back packs contains liquid fuels).

Chain Saws and other powered tools

Will most likely contain a residue of fuel.

Chemical Oxygen

May indicate the presence of an oxygen generator.

Cigarette Lighters

Including Lighters or Lighter Refills or Torches may contain flammable gas or flammable liquid.

Computer Equipment

May contain uninterruptible power supplies with electrical storage batteries, magnets in speakers and printing ink.

Construction Equipment

May indicate the presence of batteries, CO2 cartridges, and other power devices, gasoline powered saws or generators and space heaters all possibly containing fuel, Liquified Petroleum gas torches, paints, drying agents and thinners.


May contain flammable liquids.

Cryogenic (liquid)

Means a liquefied gas of very low temperature, which must be shipped as a regulated item.

Cylinder/Container/ Tank

May contain flammable or non-flammable compressed gases.

Dental Apparatus/Equipment

May contain hazardous chemicals such as resins, solvents, or gases.

Drilling and Mining Equipment

May contain explosives, acids, lubricants, mercury or other dangerous goods.

Electrical/Electronic Equipment

May contain powerful magnets, mercury in switches, any one of a variety of batteries and uninterruptible power supplies containing electrical storage batteries. (See Additional Battery Guidance below)

Electrically Powered Apparatus

May contain wet electric storage batteries, or lithium batteries. Even if batteries are excepted from regulations, they must be positively protected against short circuits.

Engine Parts

May include carburetors, gas lines, or gas tanks which may contain fuel or fuel residue.


Ammonium nitrate, may be an oxidizer.

Fire Extinguishers or Fire Fighting Equipment

May contain gases under pressure or gasoline engine powered equipment.

Frozen Food

May contain dry ice.


May indicate the presence of a flammable liquid, such as gasoline, a flammable gas or nonflammable gas.

Household Goods

May include paints, bleaches, spray cans under pressure, and numerous other dangerous items.

Hunting Supplies

May contain small arms ammunition or other camping related items.

Ice Maker

May contain gases under pressure.

Laboratory or Testing Equipment

May contain assorted dangerous materials.

Laundry Supplies

May mean strong bleaches or oxidizing fabric treatments.

Lawn Equipment

Such as, but not limited to, lawn mowers and weed trimmers may contain hazardous materials in the form of fuels and/or batteries.


Including Cigarette Lighters or Lighter Refills or Torches may contain flammable gas or flammable liquid.

Machinery Parts

May include adhesives, paints, sealants, solvents or other chemicals and gases.

Medical Supplies

May contain flammable or corrosive chemicals, infectious substances or radioactive materials.


Or the term "mercurial" may indicate a shipment that is regulated.

Motorized Equipment

Which may contain gasoline or electric batteries.

MSDS or Material Safety Data Sheet

May indicate a product is hazardous. Ensure that the shipment receives expert analysis before being advanced.

Office Supplies

May contain aerosols, both flammable and non-flammable printing ink, uninterruptible power supplies containing electrical storage batteries.

Oxygen Generator

Means a prohibited chemical device that generates oxygen and a large amount of heat.

Passenger Service Unit (PSU)

May indicate the presence of an oxygen generator as utilized in an aircraft.


May contain flammable liquids.


May include flammable liquids, radioactive medicines, or other hazardous chemicals.

Photographic Supplies

Could contain acids, corrosive materials, bleaches, or poisonous materials.

Rechargeable Drills, Screwdrivers and other hand tools

May contain lithium batteries. (See Batteries for additional information)

Refrigeration Equipment

May contain gases under pressure.

Repair Kits

May contain adhesives, paints, solvents, flammable gases, or other dangerous goods.

Samples for Testing

May contain any number of dangerous goods.

Survey Equipment

May indicate the presence of electrical equipment, batteries, power cartridges, and other regulated materials.

Swimming Pool, Jacuzzi Chemicals or Parts

May contain oxidizers or other dangerous goods.


May indicate the presence of mercury.

Tool Boxes

May contain explosives (power rivets), compressed gases (spray cans), flammable adhesives or paints, corrosive liquids, etc.


May be packed in dry ice.


(liquid, powder or otherwise) may be poisonous.

Weather Equipment

May indicate the presence of devices containing mercury.

Additional Battery Guidance

Types of Batteries

There are many kinds of batteries available today and several are regulated as hazardous materials in transportation that may only be shipped by contract hazmat shippers.

Lead-acid batteries

Common in cars, electric wheelchairs, some continuous computer power sources, and other applications. These batteries contain highly corrosive acid and can cause fires from short circuits.

Non-spillable batteries

Tested, proven non-spillable batteries are allowed to be shipped as non-hazardous within the U.S. Batteries and packaging must be marked "NONSPILLABLE" or "NONSPILLABLE BATTERY".

Lithium and lithium ion batteries

Both rechargeable and non-rechargeable power sources, common in computers, cell phones, cameras and other small electronic devices. If dropped, crushed or short-circuited, these batteries can release dangerous amounts of heat and may ignite, and are dangerous in fires. Special regulations apply to shipping these batteries. Shipments requiring hazardous materials shipping papers are accepted from contract hazmat shippers only, and certain lithium batteries may not qualify for UPS service.

Other Batteries

Although common dry cell (e.g., AA, C, D batteries) may not be regulated as hazardous materials, all batteries can cause fires from short circuits if batteries and terminals are not protected.

Protect Batteries and Terminals

When shipping batteries, you must protect all terminals against short circuits by completely covering the terminals with an insulating material (e.g., by using electrical tape or enclosing each battery separately in a plastic bag).

  • Short circuits can cause fires.
  • Package the batteries to keep them from being crushed or damaged, and to keep them from shifting during handling.
  • Always keep metal objects or other materials that can short circuit battery terminals securely away from the batteries - e.g., by using separate inner box for the batteries.

Prevent Fires

Any device with installed batteries must not turn on while in transport. Protect switches that can be accidentally activated, or remove the batteries and protect the terminals.

 - Even very simple devices like flashlights or rechargeable drills can generate a dangerous quantity of heat if accidentally activated.

Recalled or Recycled Batteries

Never ship recalled or recycled batteries by air.

Air level services include UPS Next Day Air®, UPS 2nd Day Air®, UPS 3 Day SelectSM, UPS Worldwide ExpressSM, and UPS Worldwide ExpeditedSM.

No recycled or recalled batteries are allowed to be shipped between the continental U.S. and Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico, where aircraft always must be used.

Electronic Items for Repair

Repair items, such as computers and cell phones, should be sent without batteries.

This is only a sampling of trigger terms which should prompt further questions about a shipment. There are many more, and it is hoped that seeing these will lead you to think about other general terms that may warrant further investigation.

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