The Challenge of Two-Day Shipping for Aerosols,

Written on: February 1, 2019 by Nicholas Georges

Over the last several decades, technology has developed by leaps and bounds. German physicist Heinrich Hertz first produced radio waves in 1886, which paved the road for today’s cell phones. In 1936, Alan Turing proposed the Turing machine, which became the foundation for theories about computing and computers. In 1980, Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn created a set of guidelines for data transfer using packet switching, which laid the foundation for the internet. I highly doubt that these men realized at the time that their work would revolutionize the way consumers shop. None of these men could have foreseen that their work would give us the ability to buy anything with the tap of the finger and have that product arrive on our doorstep without delay in two days, one day or even the same day. I’m sure those of you who had last-minute gifts delivered on Christmas Eve know what I mean.

However, nearly instantaneous delivery, which has become an expectation associated with e-commerce, means that goods must more often travel by air. This presents a unique set of regulatory and logistical challenges for aerosol products—a set of challenges that does not burden similar products that are delivered to retail locations via ground transportation.

Although the differences of aerosol shipping methods can make your head spin, not properly shipping aerosol products by air can lead to some stiff penalties. Between 2013 and 2015, there were six Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enforcement cases involving improperly shipped aerosol products by air. Those six cases had a total of $414,020 in proposed penalties, so following the proper regulations is critical. Below is a quick overview of some of the complexities of aerosol air transport, and how HCPA is working to harmonize U.S. and global regulations, while ensuring that safety is at least maintained, if not improved.

Products and materials that meet the criteria of one of the nine hazard classes are regulated as hazardous materials when offered for transportation. Aerosol products, due to their pressure, are Class 2, typically Division 2.1 or 2.2 depending on the following criteria:

  • If the contents of the aerosol product include 85% by mass or more flammable components and the chemical heat of combustion (HOC) is 30 kJ/g or more, it must be assigned to Division 2.1.
  • If the contents of the aerosol product contain 1% by mass or less flammable components and the HOC is less than 20 kJ/g, it must be assigned to Division 2.2.
  • For any aerosol product not meeting either of the above two bullets, the product must be classed in accordance with the appropriate tests of the United Nations (UN) Manual of Tests & Criteria.
  • Flammable components are Class 3 flammable liquids, Division 4.1 flammable solids, or Division 2.1 flammable gases. The chemical HOC must be determined in accordance with the UN Manual of Tests & Criteria.


While the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) allows an exception that reduces the regulatory burden of shipping limited quantities of aerosol products (must be under 30 kg [66 lbs.] and comply with 49 CFR § 173.306), there are still differences between ground and air requirements that complicate air transport.

Below, find the limited quantity marking for both ground transportation and air transportation.

For Ground Transportation

For Air Transportation






Limited Quantity Marking

Additionally, the following are general requirements when shipping aerosols via air under the limited quantity exemption in the U.S. that don’t apply to ground shipments:

  • Shipping papers with emergency response information must be included.
  • The UN number and proper shipping name must be indicated.
  • Proper hazard class marking(s) must be used.

Beyond these domestic differences, since U.S. regulations and definitions for aerosols often differ from the rest of the world, this further complicates international air transport.

For example, aerosol products that fall under Division 6.1 are prohibited from air transport in the U.S., but are allowed internationally, provided certain criteria are met.

The container size can also make a difference. For the air transport of limited quantities of non-flammable plastic aerosol products that do not have hazard concerns other than pressure, DOT allows 1,000mL container sizes, while international regulations only allow for 500mL. If the product is flammable, the international limit is 120mL.

International aerosol shipping regulations are largely determined by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which both work to support aviation by providing global standards for airline safety, security, efficiency and sustainability.

The Household & Commercial Products Association (HCPA) has an ongoing open dialogue with the ICAO and IATA and is looking to work on the harmonization of aerosol regulations with allied trade associations.

In addition, HCPA has led a group of allied trade associations in petitioning DOT’s Pipeline & Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) to harmonize the U.S. definition of an aerosol and is working to further align with the international community by allowing alternative test methods to replace the hot water bath test and to reduce barriers to plastic aerosols.

This is only a high-level overview and doesn’t cover all requirements or situations when shipping aerosol products. If you’re interested in discussing best practices as they relate to the transportation of aerosol products by air or would like to get involved in our regulatory harmonization efforts, please contact me at Together, we’ll be able to ensure that consumers and workers are able to obtain aerosol products that enhance their lives in a timely manner, regardless of the mode of transportation. SPRAY