February 15, 2021: The Dangers of Purchasing Loose Lithium Ion Batteries

NBC News investigative and consumer correspondent, Vicky Nguyen, recently published a article claiming consumers are being sold a powerful lithium ion battery, one that experts say should not be sold individually due to the risk of explosion, without knowing how potentially dangerous they can be.
The battery in question is the 18650 Lithium Ion Cell Battery. The 18650 battery is one of the most commonly used lithium ion batteries in the world. They can be found in everything from laptops to toys. However, experts have stated they should not be sold loosely due to the fact that they do not have circuitry to protect them. That means if the battery comes into contact with something metal, like your car keys or loose change in your pocket, they can combust.
According to Ms. Nguyen, she found thousands of results for these batteries on sites like Amazon.com and Walmart.com.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently issued a warning on the 18650 lithium ion cell batteries stating you should “not use loose 18650 lithium ion cells… because they can cause…serious injury or death…and are not intended for individual sale to consumers.”
Ms. Nguyen’s article discussed Amazon reviews where consumers mentioned the batteries “got extremely hot and started smoking”, “almost burnt my home down”, and were labeled with terms like “dangerous” and “fire hazard”.
Another serious concern when it comes to purchasing these batteries is the risk of actually purchasing a knockoff. NBC News purchased several items from Amazon’s warehouse deals that came with loose 18650 batteries. The batteries were labeled as inspected. Last year, Columbia University’s engineering lab tested them and found nine of them to be knockoffs.
After inspecting the knockoff batteries, Columbia University professor Dan Steingart, who has 20 years of experience studying and developing batteries, said “You shouldn’t use this battery…It’s not designed well, it shouldn’t be sold, people shouldn’t be using it….If the battery is not made the way you’re expecting it to be made, it’s inherently unsafe.”
When discussing how a consumer would know if they are purchasing a safe battery, Mr. Steingart said “if it has a fancy wrapping and looks like it’s ready to be plugged into your device, that’s a big red flag. They normally have a plain blue wrapper on them that should be already built into your device where you never see it.”

Experts warn against buying loose lithium ion batteries that cause fire hazard

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