Formalin, Meiofauna & Transportation

Cassian Edwards bt3171 at
Fri Nov 20 12:00:36 EST 1998

Apologies for any cross postings.

I am looking for advice. I am shortly due out in the field to obtain some
samples of coral-reef meiofauna. It is my intention to preseve samples (and
calcareous sediment) with 4% Formalin (1 part 40% strength Formaldehyde to
24 parts seawater), with the addition of 1g/Litre Rose Bengal stain, for
later analysis in a different country. However, I am finding it difficult to
get a courier company to transport my samples, mainly due to the toxic
nature of formaldehyde, which is classified as a hazardous substance.

My samples, however, will obviously contain a dilute solution of
formaldehyde, and not a 40% strength mixture which the courier companies
guideline books dictate is extremely hazardous - fairplay, formaldehyde IS a
dangerous substance. However, in the majority of airline traffic and
hazardous substance books I have read, most only state that Formaldehyde
solutions greater or equal to 25% are hazardous, reporting no indication as
to whether those wishing to transfer more dilute solutions have to declare
them as 'dangerous substances' to courier companies. I appreciate that at
almost any dilution Formaldehyde is a danger.

I would imagine other researchers have come up against this kind of problem
when wanting to transport by air securely packaged formalin-preserved macro-
and meiofauna from country to country. How have they managed to get
theirsamples home? Have they simply sneeked their samples through customs in
their shoes?! Or perhaps one way is to pour out the majority of the
preservative so that effectively their sample bottle contains no hazardous

I would be grateful for any feedback on this subject.

Thank you so much,


c.edwards at

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