The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has begun warning consumers to stay away from loose, non-packaged batteries being sold online. They say the batteries are dangerous due to a high risk of fire and explosion. We agree, at least with a warning to avoid such batteries. It is always best to buy only packaged batteries direct from a manufacturer or reputable retailer.
Loose 18650 batteries are what the CPSC is primarily concerned about. These batteries are slightly larger than standard AA batteries and are often manufactured as part of multi-battery packs for electronic devices. The CPSC says sellers are separating individual batteries from the packs and selling them online. They are now working with eBay and other sites to bring an end to the sales.
Lithium-ion batteries that do not have on-board safety circuitry designed to prevent them from overheating can pose risk additional risks, but any battery has the ability to create hazards if you were to short circuit the terminals. Loose batteries taken from hardwired battery packs may not have the circuitry built in and are not likely to be packaged in protective cases to prevent short-circuiting.
Regulators are concerned that loose 18650 batteries without protected positive and negative ends could short-circuit and overheat after coming in contact with metal surfaces. For example, carrying a couple of them in your pocket along with coins could be dangerous. An exposed battery end could make contact with a coin and cause a short circuit. That could lead to overheating or worse.
Lithium-ion batteries are generally safe when used properly. But if misused or abused, or if they are allowed to overheat, they have the potential catch fire or explode. We have seen numerous stories over the years of that very thing happening. Purchasing loose batteries that may or may not be properly protected just makes no sense in light of such risks.
The best way to avoid short-circuiting risks is to keep your batteries in a case that prevents them from short circuiting with any objects nearby whether that’s in your backpack, pocket, or a desk drawer.
The Question of Quality
Safety concerns aside, it is also a bad idea to purchase loose batteries online for the simple fact that there is no way to verify their quality. You really don't know what you're getting. Loose batteries could have been taken out of a discarded electronic device. They could have been disposed by a distributor or retailer for some unknown reason.
When you buy USB rechargeable batteries from Pale Blue Earth, you know exactly what you are getting. You're getting fresh, unopened, new batteries properly tested and packaged by the manufacturer before leaving the plant. You are getting batteries you know will work; batteries you can trust in terms of both safety and quality.
Batteries and Their Inherent Risks
We want to close this post by reminding readers that there are inherent risks with all batteries. Loose batteries from unknown sources may be riskier, but even batteries from a reputable manufacturer can cause problems if not used properly.
9V batteries are a bigger short circuit risk than most due to the close proximity of their positive and negative terminals. A loose 9V in a drawer in your house is a fire hazard if something were to bridge those terminals and create a short.
Lithium-ion batteries are especially sensitive to high temperatures. This is why manufacturers recommend not exposing them to high heat or direct sunlight. It is why you should never leave lithium-ion batteries in a hot car. The risks of overheating and short-circuiting explain why the FAA requires batteries taken on airplanes to be packaged in a specific way. Batteries such as Pale Blue Earth have on-board high temperature safety circuits to shut them down if they get too hot during use, but it’s still best to avoid exposure to high temperatures of course.
All of this is to say that there are right and wrong ways to use, charge, and store lithium-ion batteries. Use them properly and they are completely safe. Use them improperly and you are opening yourself up to risks. Always check your product’s recommendations on what type of batteries are recommended. Some products are not designed for use with certain battery types or chemistries.
If you want safe batteries that work as expected – and we cannot think of a reason why you wouldn't – purchase all of your consumer batteries from Pale Blue Earth. We specialize in USB rechargeable batteries in all the most popular form factors. We have what you need for most of your devices.
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