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Royal Mail is writing to 130,000 medical, veterinary and academic organisations to explain changes to the way pathological specimens can be transported within the UK.

Under new International Air Transport Association regulations, special secure packaging which conforms to United Nations regulation 602 and satisfies pressure and leakage tests for carriage in aircraft, will become mandatory for specimens carried by inland mail, because any mail may be carried by a domestic flight.

The new packaging was intended to be used from January 1 but Royal Mail is giving customers a transitional period of three months to buy packing materials.

Pathological specimens covered by the new requirements are usually samples, often blood samples, taken from humans or animals which contain or are being tested for an organism which is in one of the four World Health Organisation risk groups. The changes affect organisations in the health, veterinary, dental, research and testing communities, so Royal Mail is doing all it can to advise them of their new legal responsibilities, said Paul Brown of Royal Mail.

"To a considerable extent this formalises existing practice," he added. "We operate an open access network where customers can post items at thousands of locations across the country, each with a good chance that it will travel by aircraft at some point in its journey, so it must be packaged to conform to the new requirements.

"Quite apart from our legal obligations, we, take very seriously our responsibility to our employees who handle these packages."

Notes to Editors:

A sample is generally in the form of blood or urine but can take the form of human or animal body tissue. The World Health Organisation recognises four levels of seriousness; these packaging regulations can contain from one (the least serious) to three but samples in the fourth category are regarded so seriously that they need to be transported by other means.

SOURCE The Post Office

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