Posting lithium batteries in the mail

Posting lithium batteries in the mail


Lithium batteries power many products which we all use in our daily lives, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers. These batteries contain more energy than many other battery types allowing our electronic devices to run for hours or even days. Lithium batteries are very safe, but because of their high energy, if we don’t treat them with care or if we abuse them, they can catch fire. It is also very important that you only buy
replacement batteries from reputable sources, as poor quality or counterfeit batteries have been the cause of a number of fires in the home, workplace and onboard aircraft. We will look at what can happen if lithium
batteries are not transported in accordance with aviation safety requirements. We will also explain how some equipment containing lithium batteries may be safely sent in airmail. First, some terminology. A lithium battery
is two or more cells which are connected together, for example a laptop battery. Some devices
such as mobile phones and watches are powered by one or more individual lithium cells. Lithium batteries come in different shapes
and sizes but the most common technology for rechargeable electronic equipment is Lithium-Ion. Similar rechargeable technologies such as Lithium Polymer are treated in the same way as lithium ion batteries when in transport. For portable equipment that’s not rechargeable, like watches, Lithium Metal batteries are commonly used. Because portable electronic devices are so
common, billions of lithium batteries are transported around the world and this is expected to increase substantially over the coming years. Also, new technology allows batteries to contain
more energy than before. This means it is even more important that
lithium batteries are transported according to the rules. In recent years we’ve seen a growing number
of fire incidents involving lithium batteries, some of which had the potential to lead to
the loss of an aircraft. Mail is carried extensively onboard passenger
aircraft, both internationally and on relatively short domestic flights. However, experience
has shown that lithium cells and batteries are often sent in the mail in breach of the
international aviation safety requirements. Both lithium-ion and lithium-metal batteries
can be dangerous if they are faulty, abused or not manufactured to international standards.
That’s why it’s so important that you only buy lithium cells and batteries from
reputable sources. Some batteries may look genuine but, as with this example, they may be counterfeit. Faults can occur if batteries are abused or
damaged, for example by being punctured or dropped. To ensure they are safe for transport, all
types of lithium batteries must pass stringent tests. Batteries which are not tested, for
example counterfeit items pose a significant risk to flight safety. Counterfeit, faulty and abused lithium batteries
and those which have not been protected against short circuit can experience something called “thermal runaway”. This results in them getting so hot that they can catch fire and ignite other nearby batteries. Any fire onboard an aircraft, particularly
one involving lithium batteries, has the potential to be catastrophic. Cells or batteries that are defective for
safety reasons, or that have been damaged, are forbidden for air transport as these are
more likely to catch fire. Here we see the fierce fire resulting from 5,000 lithium ion batteries that were set alight for test purposes. In this test, we see what happens when lithium
metal batteries are ignited. Whilst the cargo compartments of passenger aircraft are fitted with fire suppression systems, these may not be effective against lithium battery fires. Clearly, there must be controls over how dangerous
goods, including lithium batteries are transported. The Universal Postal Union (or UPU) considers what dangerous goods could be sent safely in mail and then seeks the agreement of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) who determine the requirements to ensure
those dangerous goods can be carried safely in airmail. The UPU and ICAO requirements DO NOT permit
lithium batteries to be sent in international mail unless they are contained in equipment. Staff: “Does the phone contain a lithium battery?” Customer: “Yes they’re inside the phone” The prohibition on uninstalled lithium batteries applies to all types, including lithium button and coin cells and most countries apply this prohibition to domestic mail too. Lithium batteries contained in equipment may
only be sent if the mail service accepting the mail from the sender has been approved
to do so by their civil aviation authority. However, some countries don’t accept lithium
batteries contained in equipment in airmail. Your mail service can advise you on this. The key requirements are as follows: Check that your postal service accepts equipment
containing lithium batteries and whether other conditions apply. For example, it may only
be permitted to present them over the counter. For equipment powered by one or more rechargeable
lithium ion cells such as a mobile phone or a camera, the rating of each cell must not exceed 20Wh. The Wh rating of lithium ion batteries of
larger devices such as laptop computers, must not exceed 100Wh. The cells or batteries of common consumer
electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets and most laptops fall within these
limits, but the batteries of high powered equipment such as e-bikes will exceed them.
The Watt-hour rating should be marked on the battery so you should check this if in any doubt. For equipment containing non-rechargeable
lithium metal cells the lithium content must not exceed 1g. Typically, cells of up to AA size fall within this limit but C and D cells often exceed it and if so are prohibited. For equipment containing lithium metal batteries, the aggregate lithium content must not exceed 2g Equipment containing cells or batteries must
be secured against movement within strong, rigid packaging and must be packed so that
it cannot be turned on during transport. Any exposed terminals must be protected against
short circuit, Each package must contain no more than four
cells or two batteries installed in equipment. The maximum net quantity of cells or batteries
is 5 kilograms per package. The sender’s name and return address must
be clearly visible on the outer packaging. It is imperative that these procedures are
followed to ensure the transport of Lithium batteries contained in equipment is safe and does not jeopardise an aircraft or its passengers and crew. For more information on the prohibitions and
restrictions on dangerous goods in the mail, check with your postal service.

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