Hidden Danger Aboard Planes: Lithium Batteries

Shipments suspected in 2 jet crashes

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 31, 2012 12:09 PM CST | Updated Jan 5, 2013 7:59 AM CST

(Newser) – The new year brings new shipping standards for lithium batteries—and though they're designed to improve safety, the new rules may not be enough to protect us. The Wall Street Journal explains that the batteries can "spontaneously ignite" if they're damaged or overheated, which is exactly what can happen when huge quantities are packed together for shipping, often via cargo plane. The batteries are suspected in a pair of such plane crashes that killed four pilots over two years—as well as 24 airplane-related "combustion incidents" in the US during the past three years, according to regulators.

With a report due soon on the 2010 crash of a UPS 747 in Dubai, calls for a crackdown are getting louder. Pilots and safety experts say it's time to tighten rules on the quantity of batteries allowed in a shipment, and they want more protection against damaged batteries. With more than a billion lithium batteries produced annually, they're "going to be part of our lives and transportation, so we need to step up and find a way to appropriately oversee it," says a flight safety advocate. But gadget makers and battery suppliers say we just need to enforce current rules. Meanwhile, some airlines have taken steps of their own: Air France flight attendants are now trained to use water or juice, rather than a fire extinguisher, to put out a personal electronics fire; Emirates Airline now keeps fireproof bags aboard its passenger planes.

This Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009 file photo, shows A123 Systems Inc.'s high power Nanophospate Lithium Ion Cell for Hybrid Electric Vehicles batteries in Livonia, Mich.
This Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009 file photo, shows A123 Systems Inc.'s high power Nanophospate Lithium Ion Cell for Hybrid Electric Vehicles batteries in Livonia, Mich.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
« Prev« Prev | Next »Next » Slideshow
My TakeCLICK BELOW TO VOTE
6%
19%
4%
1%
65%
6%
To report an error on this story, notify our editors.

NEWS FROM OUR PARTNERS
Other Sites We Like:   The Street   |   MSN Living   |   PopSugar Tech   |   RealClear   |   24/7 Wall St.   |   Biography   |   Barstool Sports   |   OK!