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CPSC warning: Do not use lithium-ion battery cells separated from battery packs

Christian Fernsby |
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning consumers not to buy or use loose 18650 lithium-ion battery cells.

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These cells are manufactured as industrial component parts of battery packs and are not intended for individual sale to consumers.

However, they are being separated, rewrapped and sold as new consumer batteries, typically on the Internet.

Rechargeable lithium cells without proper protection that are not installed in a device or as part of an integral battery ("loose cells") are potentially hazardous to consumers when handled, transported, stored, charged, or used to power devices.

Specifically, these 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.

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.

In addition, thermal runaway can occur in loose cells if consumers use them in inappropriate chargers that allow for charging beyond the cell's specifications.

Unfortunately, a growing number of small consumer products, such as vaping devices, personal fans, headlamps, and some toys, are using loose 18650s as a power source.

CPSC is working with e-commerce sites, including eBay, to remove listings selling these loose cells.

Do not use loose 18650 lithium ion cells that are separated from battery packs.

They are often misused as a stand-alone consumer battery, but do not have protection circuits.

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