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Lithium Battery Safety: Travel Tips

Uses and Shipping of Lithium Batteries

Batteries keep our hectic world running at full speed. Because of the high demands of a hectic life, lithium battery power has become the preferred energy source for many conveniences like laptops, cellphones, e-cigarettes, e-bikes, children’s toys and passenger vehicles.

Lithium is a lightweight, affordable source for strong power and lasts several times longer than nickel cadmium and alkaline alternatives, which can be safely checked in baggage when traveling.

Though widely used, most people don’t know lithium batteries can pose a safety risk and are even declared hazardous material in some cases. Lithium batteries most often pose a safety risk when they overheat, because when they overheat they can explode.

Also tricky: they pose both a chemical and electrical hazard and are hard to extinguish once ignited. Some battery manufacturers refer to “venting with flame,” “rapid disassembly” or “thermal runaway” in their safety literature. [Note: These are all less alarming ways of saying “EXPLOSION!”]

Because of this potential to overheat and explode, lithium batteries have strict shipping regulations requiring special packaging and labeling. Most airlines and shipping companies have complete policies available on shipping and traveling with lithium batteries.

These safety risks are also the reason airlines are so stringent about checking cellphones and laptops. Lithium is a readily explosive material under the right conditions.

But wait! There is good news about lithium batteries. Besides being lighter and longer lasting, lithium is also a low-maintenance battery, an advantage that most other chemistries cannot claim. There is no memory and no scheduled cycling is required to prolong the battery's life.

And the self-discharge is less than half compared to nickel-cadmium, making lithium well-suited for modern technology applications. Plus, lithium cells cause little harm when disposed of. Regulations around the world for shipping and traveling with them are strictly enforced for your safety.

By knowing what conditions cause risk with lithium batteries, you can prevent any accidents with your own devices.

Some handling tips:

  • Keep your cellphone, laptop, tablet and other lithium-powered devices out of extreme cold and heat.
  • Don’t leave cellphones and laptops exposed in a hot car or in the glove compartment or trunk.
  • Do not check extra batteries in your luggage. Instead get this travel organizer for extra AA and AAA batteries that can go in your carry-on or purse or in backpacks for school or camping trips.
  • Always purchase batteries from a reputable source like Interstate. Proper manufacturing can prevent defects, which helps prevent risks.

Reputable companies also follow all shipping regulations when you order batteries so they arrive safe and undamaged. If you order a large quantity of lithium batteries, your order may arrive in several different shipments, in keeping with safety regulations. Should your lithium battery overheat and catch fire, try to use soda – yep, like Coke – to extinguish the flame, water to contain the spread of damage and let it burn out without trying to move it. All it takes is a little awareness to enjoy the super power of lithium batteries safely.

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