10-10-2009, 12:57 PM
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| | Lithium batteries can overheat if overcharged
The Department of Transportation last week released a safety advisory warning of the potential dangers involved with lithium batteries onboard commercial passenger and cargo aircraft. This may be the reason for the admonition on cell phone chargers to disconnect the charger when the battery is fully charged. (I still do not understand how to tell when the battery is fully charged without disconnecting the charger.)
This is part of the DOT safety advisory:
Lithium batteries are deemed hazardous materials because they include both chemical and electrical hazards, the advisory said. If improperly packaged, stored or overcharged, the batteries can overheat and ignite.
The entire advisory is as follows:
SAFETY ADVISORY WARNS OF LITHIUM BATTERY TRANSPORT – The Department of Transportation last week released a safety advisory warning of the potential dangers involved with lithium batteries onboard commercial passenger and cargo aircraft.
The advisory, issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with FAA, discusses recent incidents involving lithium batteries on aircraft and regulatory requirements for their transport in commercial and cargo service.
“PHMSA and FAA are concerned that many persons who ship lithium batteries do not recognize the hazards posed by these batteries during transportation,” the advisory said, adding that some 40 aircraft incidents have involved lithium batteries since 1991. The incidents occurred both before loading the batteries onboard aircraft, as well as while they were transported by air. “Many of the incidents were directly related to a lack of awareness of the required safety measures applicable to shipments of lithium batteries or because passengers failed to follow preventative measures to protect batteries from short circuit or damage,” the advisory said.
The advisory outlined several specific cases, including a Sept. 9 incident in which a passenger flight declared an emergency after a personal electronic device was dropped and the battery pack sparked and began smoking. On Aug. 14, a flight crew received a warning indicating smoke in the forward cargo compartment.
The indication came after the crew had landed the plane. The initial investigation suggested that the fire originated with a shipment of about 1,000 e-cigarettes, each containing a lithium metal battery. The advisory noted that the shipment contained no markings or labels indicating the materials posed a specific hazard or contained lithium batteries.
Lithium batteries are deemed hazardous materials because they include both chemical and electrical hazards, the advisory said. If improperly packaged, stored or overcharged, the batteries can overheat and ignite, the advisory warns, adding this could lead to thermal runaway.
DOT has undertaken several public outreach efforts to ensure compliance with safety handling practices. “Despite these outreach efforts, aviation incidents involving lithium batteries continue to occur,” the advisory said, citing as an example a July 15 shipment containing several thousand lithium ion cell phone batteries loosely placed into fiberboard packages, with no protection from short circuits and no package markings indicating the presence of lithium batteries. One of the packages was found to be emitting smoke after the aircraft landed at its destination.
The advisory states the intention of the agencies to step up enforcement of safety standards. The agencies will be watching for undeclared shipments and stated their intention of bringing enforcement action against illegal transport. “This advisory puts all shippers on notice that noncompliance with the safety regulations is not acceptable,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “I have asked the department’s enforcement personnel to increase their inspections and step up enforcement where necessary.”