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Know the fire risks associated with lithium-ion batteries

As part of National Electric Safety Month, today’s MI Environment story is featuring the proper use and recycling or disposal of lithium-ion batteries. The upcoming Michigan Environmental Compliance Conference in Lansing on June 5 and 6 is featuring a presentation on the dangers that these batteries present. The deadline for registration is May 27.

From cell phones to cordless power tools to electric vehicles and more, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are found in more and more products. They are popular because they hold more energy, are rechargeable and hold a charge longer.

Samsung lithium-ion cell phone battery.

Lithium-ion cell phone battery.


But Li-ion batteries also carry with them an increased fire risk when they are used or recharged improperly, says Steve Noble, the electronics recycling specialist at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). “Because they are ‘reactive and hold more charge,’ lithium-ion batteries can easily spark and cause a fire when they are damaged or improperly charged. They also pose a fire risk if the battery breaks and is exposed to air, which causes the battery to ignite and burn at a very high temperature.”

There are hundreds of fires every year from these batteries being abused and damaged in Michigan and elsewhere – in homes, landfills and recycling facilities.

But when these batteries are used correctly, people can stay safe while using, charging and storing devices powered by them.

Noble provides the following tips to avoid Li-ion battery fires:

  • Recycle batteries properly. Participate in your local household hazardous waste (HHW) [link] collection or find a retailer that accepts Li-ion batteries for recycling.
  • Tape the terminal of the batteries in preparation for recycling them. Don’t store lithium batteries outside of their protective packaging when they’re not being used and stored. This will prevent terminals sparking.
  • Prevent breakage and damage by keeping them in their original packaging or in the product that uses the Li-ion battery until they are ready to be recycled.

An intact battery that is not defective is designed to remain intact in its original manufactured item (like a cordless drill) or in the container used for distribution.

If an electronic device or battery puffs up during charging, remove it from your home or place of business and store it in a bucket of sand until you can properly recycle it at your local HHW facility for residents or waste handler. Businesses should have a DDR (damaged, defective or recalled) battery kit at their facility.

Lithium-ion battery cautions: Do not disassemble; Never throw it in the fire or water; discard used batteries according to manufacturer's instructions or local laws; read manual before use.

Cautions listed on a lithium-ion battery.


For more details on batteries and where to recycle them from a household, go to

For more details on batteries and where to recycle them from businesses, see EGLE’s universal waste guidance, disposal vendor list, and recycled materials market directory at   

The Electrical Safety Foundation has a number of helpful resources.