Amazon’s HazMat Problems

Amazon will sell you just about anything. That also means the company will ship just about anything. And it seems that lately that shipping is costing it a lot of money thanks to screw-ups in the company’s handling of hazardous materials. Over the past 10 days the FAA has recommended three separate “civil penalty” fines totaling $470,000 for improper packing, non-disclosure or other problems.


The FAA alleges that on Oct. 15, 2014, Amazon offered to United Parcel Service (UPS) a package containing a one-gallon container of “Amazing! LIQUID FIRE,” a corrosive drain cleaner for transportation by air from Louisville, Ky., to Boulder, Colo.


The FAA alleges that on June 2, 2014, Amazon offered UPS a non-specification cardboard box containing a flammable gas for air transportation from Whitestown, Ind., to Glendale, Calif. The package held a 19-ounce container of Simple Air EZ Green HVAC Cleaner.


The FAA alleges that on May 24, 2014, Amazon offered Federal Express (FedEx) two cardboard boxes containing corrosive rust stain preventer for air transportation from Plainfield, Ill. to Davenport, Fla.

One of the packages contained four 1-gallon plastic jugs of Rid O’ Rust Stain Preventer Acid Well Water Formula, while the other held two 1-gallon jugs of the formula. Workers at FedEx’s sorting facility in Lake Wales, Fla., discovered one of the containers leaked through the cardboard box.

Generally speaking this stuff should never take flight or, if it does, it should be better packed and accompanied by significant disclosure documentation. Amazon seems to have not bothered. In the case of the LIQUID FIRE violation the FAA piled on, adding the following to the release:

Amazon has a history of violating the Hazardous Materials Regulations. From February 2013 to September 2015 alone, Amazon was found to have violated the Hazardous Materials Regulations 24 other times. The FAA is continuing to investigate Amazon’s compliance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations applicable to air transportation.

Violations (discovered and acted upon) more than once a month suggest that the company has all sorts of issues. And it is getting ready to launch its own cargo operation, a move which will remove a third party from checking the kit being shipped. And, sadly, it is not clear that the fines are sufficiently large to really matter. Oops.

Image gratuitously lifted from the Amazon website.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I have no pity for Amazon. As much as I love buying stuff, etc. from Amazon, these incidents are not one-offs. Amazon knew what it was shipping and it is blatant disregard for HazMat regulations. UPS doesn’t take any HazMat via air, so all that business goes to FedEx Express. The surcharges for HazMat is by type material. Basically the dangerous chemicals have an $80 charge on top of shipping costs. The amount of extra effort to transport the dangerous things is a big deal. But it is not an excessive charge. I have to hope that Amazon just made some mistakes and isn’t trying to save on shipping costs.

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