Li-on batteries can, in some circumstances, be really rather dangerous. A UN panel agrees: the agency has recommended banning rechargeable li-on battery shipments from the holds of passenger aeroplanes. The Associated Press reports that the UN's International Civilian Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is nervous about li-on batteries catching fire, which could ultimately lead to the destruction of an aeroplane. However, it also cedes that if new safety packaging were to be made that guarded against li-on batteries bursting open and into flames, it would be happy for the ban to be lifted.
The debate is not a new one. In fact, the ICAO stated just last year that shipping li-on batteries via passenger aircraft was an "unacceptable risk". At the time the FAA agreed. The UN rejected the ICAO's recommendations late last year, but the Associated Press report seems to suggest that the proposals remain up for debate.
The suggestions wouldn't affect the shipment of li-on batteries via cargo aeroplanes or carry-on luggage, of course. Perhaps more striking would be a ban on bulk shipment of li-on batteries by air, period. As the AP points out, there have been a series of accidents aboard cargo aircraft — resulting in four deaths — that are believed to be attributable to li-on battery fires.
As for the ICAO's recommendations, they will be considered by its top-level council later this month. For now, the future shipment of li-on cells by air remains unclear.
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