Lithium-ion batteries are blamed for at least 191 incidents of explosion, fire, and smoke in airports and aircraft since March 20, 1991, according to a new report from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
According to the FAA report, the incidents involved lithium-ion batteries carried in passenger bags or transported as cargo and used to power a multitude of devices including e-cigarettes, laptop computers, cameras, flashlights, and cell phones, among others.
Incidents of lithium-ion batteries overheating, exploding, bursting into flames, and smoking have prompted emergency landings and airport evacuations on multiple occasions, the FAA report shows. The incidents, which can snowball into giant expenses for airlines and airports, have caused injuries, travel delays, and property damage.
The FAA tallied incidents up until Jan. 24, 2018, but the agency also notes that its list should not be considered complete as there may be other incidents involving lithium-ion batteries that it isn’t aware of. The FAA also notes several incidents for which lithium-ion batteries may be responsible but haven’t been proven.
The FAA’s list, which isn’t limited to the United States or U.S.-based airlines, also does not account for lithium-ion battery shipments that were implicated but not proven to be the source of fire.
The FAA has banned lithium-ion batteries and devices containing them from checked baggage in commercial airlines and requires ticket agents to inform passengers that lithium-ion batteries are not allowed in baggage that’s checked and stowed in the airplane’s cargo hold.
In some cases, the FAA and airlines will issue bans on specific lithium-ion batteries and devices that hold them.
In September 2016, the FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation issued safety notices related to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, after Samsung recalled the device for safety reasons. Federal hazardous materials regulations prohibit airline passengers and crewmembers from traveling with lithium cells, batteries or portable electronic devices that have been identified by the manufacturer as being defective for safety reasons.
Loose batteries that aren’t properly secured and insulated from each other are also banned from carry-on luggage.