WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Consumers have been advised not to buy 18650 lithium-ion battery cells, which have reportedly caused serious injuries due to incidences of fires and explosions.
- This battery is commonly used as a power source for small, portable electronics such as vaping devices, flashlights and even some toys.
- While these products are generally not sold individually, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission noted on their website that these have been separated and repacked as new batteries being sold online.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has cautioned consumers to refrain from online buying a type of rechargeable battery commonly used for portable devices such as vapes, due to associated incidences of injury and explosions.
In a warning issued last month via their website, the CPSC urged buyers not to buy 18650 lithium-ion battery cells which are items not meant to be sold individually. Unfortunately, the products are now being rewrapped and sold as new consumer batteries on e-commerce websites.
This puts consumers, who may accidentally place them in contact with devices without proper protection, at greater risk of fire or explosion.
“[T]hese battery cells may have exposed metal positive and negative terminals that can short-circuit when they come into contact with metal objects, such as keys or loose change in a pocket,” the agency wrote.
“Once shorted, loose cells can overheat and experience thermal runaway, igniting the cell’s internal materials and forcibly expelling burning contents, resulting in fires, explosions, serious injuries and even death.”
With the help of various online sellers including eBay, the agency is now working to pull out listings selling these loose cells.
The agency further stressed that their warning pertained to 18650 batteries that don’t come with protection circuits, and not to every single one being sold online. A number of DIY groups, who bought the rewrapped 18650s for their e-bikes, were also cited.
Dan Steingart, professor at Columbia University, said the repacked battery is inherently unsafe for anyone who buys them.
“You will, at the very least, burn your hand if it short circuits. And at the very worst, you will start a fire,” Steingart told NBC News, via Today.
For consumers to determine whether an 18650 battery is dangerous, Steingart told the outlet that checking the product’s appearance is key. The battery should come in a plain blue wrapping instead of a “fancy” one.