Department of Transportation May Place Additional Restrictions on Laptop Batteries

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Date: Wednesday, March 7th, 2007, 08:52
Category: News

cellbattery.jpg
The Department of Transportation, which already bars bulk shipments of certain types of lithium batteries on passenger planes, is expected to introduce additional restrictions this year according to an article in Monday’s USA Today.
While the Department of Transportation has no plans to ban the batteries from carry-on luggage, Bob Richard of the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration mentioned that the risks of the batteries within airplane cabins are being studied. As a result, changes may emerge as to what can and can’t be placed in checked luggage.
In 2005, at least nine fires involving lithium batteries occurred in airplanes or cargo destined for airplanes. Though none of the fires led to serious injuries, fire safety officials, airline pilots and consumer groups are pushing for new rules and guidelines on the batteries.
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cellbattery.jpg
The Department of Transportation, which already bars bulk shipments of certain types of lithium batteries on passenger planes, is expected to introduce additional restrictions this year according to an article in Monday’s USA Today.
While the Department of Transportation has no plans to ban the batteries from carry-on luggage, Bob Richard of the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration mentioned that the risks of the batteries within airplane cabins are being studied. As a result, changes may emerge as to what can and can’t be placed in checked luggage.
In 2005, at least nine fires involving lithium batteries occurred in airplanes or cargo destined for airplanes. Though none of the fires led to serious injuries, fire safety officials, airline pilots and consumer groups are pushing for new rules and guidelines on the batteries.
In the meantime, Richard stated that the Department of Transportation an the Federal Aviation Administration are asking that the companies responsible for manufacturing and shipping the batteries take voluntary steps to lower the risks of fire while the FAA and DOT spearhead a campaign to raise lithium battery safety awareness to passengers.
In the past, lithium-based batteries have been known to generate intense heat in the case of a short circuit. These shorts can occur if metal touches both of the battery’s terminals or in internal seals fail. Over the course of 2006, more than four million batteries have been recalled due to such problems, one prevalent case including the swelling found on Sony-manufactured MacBook Pro batteries.
Though lithium-based batteries have been able to produce a near-revolution in terms of the number of devices they can power via a small battery as well as the charge capacity that can be held, the batteries also contain flammable chemicals. These batteries typically undergo fairly rigorous testing and are subject to certain safety standards, but these standards are merely voluntary and some manufacturers ignore them according to John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager for Underwriters Laboratories Inc.. The group is expected to issue tougher testing standards for the batteries this spring.
One outstanding case that raised the issue was a 1999 fire in a cargo hold aboard a Northwest Airline flight from Japan. During the flight, a load of 120,000 batteries ignited in flames, airline employees continuously doused the batteries with a fire hose, but found that every time they thought they’d extinguished the fire, it’d flare up again, commented a representative from the National Transportation Safety Board.
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