New DOT Hazmat Safety Rule Limits Carry-on of Lithium Batteries

Due to a new federal safety rule that is effective today, passengers are no longer be able to pack loose lithium batteries in checked luggage. The new regulation, designed to reduce the risk of lithium battery fires, will continue to allow lithium batteries in checked baggage if they are installed in electronic devices, or in carry-on baggage if stored in plastic bags.

Common consumer electronics such as travel cameras, cell phones, and most laptop computers are still allowed in carry-on and checked luggage; however, the rule limits individuals to bringing only two extended-life spare rechargeable lithium batteries, such as laptop and professional audio/video/camera equipment lithium batteries in carry-on baggage.

"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," said Krista Edwards, deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Lithium batteries are considered hazardous materials because they can overheat and ignite in certain conditions. Safety testing conducted by the FAA found that current aircraft cargo fire suppression system would not be capable of suppressing a fire if a shipment of non-rechargeable lithium batteries were 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."

In addition to the new rule, PHMSA says it is working with the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the battery and airline industries, airline employee organizations, testing laboratories and the emergency response communities to increase public awareness about battery-related risks and developments. These safety tips are highlighted on its Web site at http://safetravel.dot.gov.

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