Should Lithium Batteries Be Banned from Flights?

Among the latest items of concern in airplane passenger cabins are lithium-ion batteries, as found in cell phones, computers and cameras, USA Today reports.

The newspaper says concerns raised by security experts, flight attendants and scientists range from fires to use of the batteries in a terrorist attack.

Data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shows in the past 19 years batteries and battery-powered devices were involved in "smoke, fire, extreme heat or explosion" on passenger or cargo planes in at least 113 incidents, the newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, American Airlines confiscated 58 cell phones, lithium-ion batteries and charging devices from a passenger on a New York to Buenos Aires flight in June, worried about a possible terrorist attack.

Dan Abraham, a materials scientist at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, says even one battery could start a fire.

"A smart terrorist can start fires with these things," he tells the newspaper. "Any energy-storage device packs a lot of energy in a small space and can be used for good or evil."

The FAA bans carrying spare batteries in checked bags. And earlier this year, the Transportation Department proposed stricter rules for shipping lithium-ion batteries in cargo holds.

Dinkar Mokadam of the Association of Flight Attendants says that group would also like to see limits established on the number of batteries a passenger can carry on a plane.

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokeswoman tells USA Today the agency has studied the matter, and found the batteries "cannot be used as an explosive and are not a security threat in personal carry-on quantities."

Photo, lrargerich, flickr
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