DOT Levies Lithium Battery Limit

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According to a statement from the U.S. DOT, the new regulations were created to reduce the risk of lithium battery fires. Batteries will still be allowed in checked baggage if they are installed in electronic devices and in carry-on bags only if they're stored in plastic bags.

While the DOT maintains that electronics will still be allowed in both carry-in and checked baggage, the new rule limits passengers to bring only two extended-life spare rechargeable lithium batteries in their carry-on luggage.

The Transportation Department also said that spare batteries can only be carried on if they contain up to 8 grams of lithium content, which most laptop, notebook and cell phone batteries do. Also, lithium metal batteries have a limit of 2 grams of lithium metal, regardless of whether they're carried as spares or installed in a device.

"Doing something as simple as keeping a spare battery in its original retail packaging or a plastic zip-lock bag will prevent unintentional short-circuiting and fires," Krista Edwards, deputy administrator of the DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), said in a statement.

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The DOT said lithium batteries are considered hazardous materials because in certain conditions they can overheat and ignite. In safety tests conducted by the FAA, it was determined that current aircraft cargo fire suppression systems would not be able to suppress or extinguish a fire if a shipment of non-rechargeable lithium batteries ignited in flight.

"This rule protects the passenger," said Lynne Osmus, FAA assistant administrator for security and hazardous materials. "It's one more step for safety. It's the right thing to do and the right time to do it."

Along with the new rule, the PHMSA is working with several agencies, including the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the battery and airline industries to raise awareness about battery-related risks.