BlogRSS Feed


Wait! Don’t Seal that Box Just Yet - Double Check that You’re Not Shipping the Following Hazardous Items

by EasyPost

Most people know that USPS processes billions of personal and business shipments each year. But many are unaware that 12% of shipments are actually classified as hazardous materials. To ensure the safety of the postal employees, transportation networks, and recipients, it’s crucial that everyone follows the Publication 52 guidelines for what is and is not safe to ship. Shippers knowingly mailing items that are prohibited or hazardous without proper documentation can be subject to penalty fines, cost of damages, and criminal charges.

Below, we’ve listed the most common items that people should review before shipping. These items range from fully prohibited to partially restricted. Another easy way to get familiar with what can and cannot be shipped is by viewing this HazMat safety tutorial by USPS. And if you’re wanting a refresher on HazMat info, be sure to check out our blog post on the new USPS HazMat shipping rules effective July 9, 2023.

#1 Mercury

Metallic mercury is more common than you might think. In the past, metallic mercury was commonly used in instruments that precisely measured pressure. Think of items such as thermometers, barometers, and even blood pressure gauges. These devices are prohibited from entering the mail stream because they will create toxic vapors and lead to mercury poisoning for exposed individuals if the device is damaged during shipping.

Here are some common items that contain mercury:

  • Old-fashioned thermometers
  • Antique barometers
  • Certain blood pressure gauges
  • Some types of switches and relays
  • Some types of medical equipment

#2 Lithium batteries

An increasing number of our everyday electronics from headphones to wireless tools to e-bikes are being powered by lithium batteries. While these are slowly becoming more and more common within our daily lives, it’s important to remember that these batteries are hazardous and highly regulated as they are prone to catching fire and exploding during handling. Smaller batteries are allowed to be shipped with the correct documentation and quantities, but large materials for cars, bikes, and scooters are prohibited. 

Lithium batteries are often found in:

  • Headphones
  • Power tools
  • E-bikes and scooters
  • Laptops and smartphones
  • Certain types of toys

#3 Flammable household items

Many household items such as aerosol sprays, cleaning agents, and cosmetic products have limitations when it comes to mail travel, as they pose a health risk to both Postal employees and customers. We highly recommend referring to Publication 52 to reduce the chance of your shipment being rejected or leading to an accident. Some of them may be able to travel in limited quantities, only by ground, or perhaps not at all.

Here are a few examples of flammable items:

  • Aerosol sprays
  • Certain cleaning agents
  • Perfumes and colognes
  • Nail polish and remover
  • Certain types of paint and solvents

#4 Fireworks

It is illegal to ship any and all fireworks through USPS. They pose a safety risk and are extremely hazardous to air transportation. Firework bans include all of the following:

  • Firecrackers
  • Sparklers
  • Rockets and missiles
  • Fountains and tubes
  • Roman candles

#5 Ammunition

Under federal law it is illegal to ship ammunition through USPS. Ammunition is categorized as explosive material and defined as, “designed to be fired from a pistol, revolver, rifle, or shotgun, as well as associated primers and blank cartridges (including those designed for tools) and propellant powder for use in any firearm”. Please refrain from shipping ammunition through USPS as it is not only a danger to Postal employees, but also could lead to civil and criminal charges. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Bullets for pistols, revolvers, rifles, or shotguns
  • Associated primers
  • Blank cartridges
  • Propellant powder