October is National Fire Safety Month and according to the International Association Fire and Rescue Services, the number of lithium-ion battery-related fires has increased fivefold in only six years. This may seem like surprising numbers since lithium-ion batteries are technically safer and less likely to fail today than a decade ago.
The increase is really a numbers game: the amount of appliances using batteries as a power source – rather than powered by a wall-powered cable is increasing, and the more batteries you use, the higher the risk. The popularity of battery-operated drones alone in recent years has contributed to more high-capacity lithium-ion batteries being stored and charged in households around the world.
These days lithium-ion batteries supply power to many kinds of devices including smartphones, laptops, scooters, vape devices, smoke alarms, toys, and cars.
The problem: These batteries store a large amount of energy in a small amount of space.
- Sometimes batteries are not used the right way; batteries not designed for specific use can be dangerous.
- Like any product, some of these batteries made by unscrupulous manufacturers can be defective.
- They can overheat, catch fire, or explode.
Signs of a problem: The National Fire Protection Association advises that you stop using a battery if you notice these problems: odor, change in color, too much heat, change in shape, leaking, or odd noises. If it is safe to do so, move the device away from anything that can catch fire and call 9-1-1.
Proper disposal: Do not put lithium-ion batteries in the trash. — Recycling is always the best option.
- Take them to a battery recycling location or contact your community for disposal instructions.
- Do not store discarded batteries in your junk drawer or in piles!
Go deeper: For more information on lithium-ion battery safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association website.