May 15, 2020

Why Are Lithium Battery Fires So Dangerous?

In this time of social distancing, many of us have been passing the time cleaning up offices, storage spaces and disposing of old devices, some of which may contain lithium ion batteries. Unfortunately, if a lithium battery is damaged, it can cause an explosion, fire or serious injury. And the last thing you want to do is try to put the fire out. Here are some steps you can take to avoid tragedy:

What causes lithium batteries to catch on fire?

Lithium-ion batteries commonly used in consumer electronics are notorious for bursting into flame when damaged or improperly packaged. If the battery is damaged and the plastic layer fails, the electrodes can come into contact and cause the battery’s liquid electrolyte to catch fire.

Can you use water to put out a lithium battery fire?

Water should not be used on any lithium fire because pouring water on a lithium battery fire can make it more difficult to extinguish it because of the reduction of lithium in water, which leads to the release of hydrogen, which is highly flammable; the potential of reigniting a fire is much greater when using water.

What to do if your smart device starts smoking?

Get away: “The best thing to do is to stand back and let the device burn or smoke — you cannot stop it once it begins,” Jeff Dahn, a professor of physics and atmospheric science at Canada’s Dalhousie University who is currently working with Tesla on battery technology, told Mashable. “The fumes contain toxic gases so you do not want to breathe those.” 

Call the Fire Dept: 

According to electrical engineer John Drengenberg, who also serves as the consumer safety director at UL (Underwriters Laboratories), an organization that tests many of the electrical devices in our homes, “The most conservative thing you can do is don’t breathe the fumes and call the fire department for help,” Drengenberg said.. “Especially if you’re pregnant, a very young child or very old. This is not smoke from a bonfire, this is a chemical reaction that is emitting toxic materials.”

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