Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good things come in small packages?

Small Lithium Batteries
Even when there charge is low
They pose a fire hazard ?
By Nick Markowitz Jr.
Fire Investigator

I was working on a Burglar Alarm system the other day where I had changed out the Lithium Batteries on several of the wireless transmitters and put the used batteries in my pocket. With normal alkaline batteries this is usually never a problem but in this case combine the Lithium batteries with some loose change in my pocket and what a mistake.
Several minutes later all of a sudden I smell something burning and that’s when I realized
There was smoke coming out of my pocket . Because it was a cold day out and I had on heavy weight sweat pants on under my jeans I did not immediately feel the heat being generated in my pocket until I put my hand in to pull out the battery and received a small burn on my hand.
Talk about stupid things to do but it was then when I realized the amount of power these small lithium batteries pack even when they have been drained down.
The reason is first off these batteries pack 5-10 times the amount of output power
Than a traditional alkaline battery because they have a much longer run time than a traditional dry cell or alkaline type battery.
Lithium batteries can supply power in residential type smoke detectors up to 10 years
Without having to be changed.
Now in my case even thou the 3 volt batteries were not strong enough to properly run the wireless transmitters they were still more than strong enough to run a small light bulb for several minutes .
This is why all small batteries need to be handled carefully even the traditional dry cell Alkaline batteries.
Just because a device is showing the batteries in it are weak this does not mean the batteries are dead and if you throw them into a trash can and they make contact across the
Positive + and Negative- terminals they can start to heat up and catch fire.
Take 2 fresh or even weak -9 volt batteries put them together and the amount of heat generated is significant enough to catch adjacent materials on fire .I have registered as much as 600 degrees of heat off even small batteries.
Of course this potential danger also makes it the perfect tool for an arsonist as well
As 2- 9 volt batteries put together or 1 lithium battery shorting out against it positive and negative terminal makes for the perfect time delay fuse for setting trash cans and dumpsters etc on fire and usually the fire is hot enough all signs of what have caused it are gone or even if it is determined the remains of a battery caused the fire how do you rule it arson if it looks like the contact was accidental because some one threw a piece of used tin foil in the trash along with the batteries they did not know was in there.
The battery industry needs to make warnings on lithium batteries more legible to warn consumers to the potential dangers these batteries pose. What about all the batteries we have in TV remotes etc that could short out as well and cause fires has a true scientific study ever been done to see if this is possible. How about those plastic case transmitters
That alarm systems use what if one of those lithium batteries shorted out in them could this cause a fire. Plus we have seen the devastating effects of cell phones exploding when counterfeit batteries were used in them. But of course this will be another
Ignored issue until multiple lives are lost as usual. One has to wonder how many fires and lives have been lost due to mishandling of small lithium and nicad batteries because in many cases fires that are ruled cause undetermined may very well have been caused by them .And how many arsonist are taking full advantage of the situation making fires with batteries look like accidents.

Note: last month there was a fire in the Hallmark store at Pittsburgh mills mall in Frazer Twp. Pa.
and these batteries are being blamed

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