The threats posed by toxic gas emissions from the batteries are not well recognized nor understood. Surprisingly, a fully charged battery tends to release more toxic gases than a battery with a 50% charge state. The chemicals contained within the cells and their capacity to release charge also affects the types of poisonous gases released from them. Manufacturers can better understand how to reduce such toxic emissions by identifying the gases emitted and reasons for their emissions. Toxic gases from the cells, and especially carbon monoxide, can cause serious harm to anyone who inhales it in a short period.
Battery fumes are known to be toxic to both human beings and the environment at large. The gases emitted are fatal and can cause various harmful effects when inhaled. Inhalation of the fumes may cause the following:
These are just some of the few immediate impacts that are generated when one inhales battery fumes. There may be cases of delayed symptoms which carry more intensity such as:
The gases are also corrosive to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. There are rare occurrences where inhalation causes lung edema whose symptoms manifest only after a few hours and are stimulated by physical effort. In such cases, victims are advised to get as much rest as possible and seek immediate medical examination. In cases where you happen to inhale battery fumes, one should seek immediate treatment and bring with them the battery for medical identification of the right drug and dosage.
What causes lithium-ion batteries to catch fire
For one to clearly understand the reasons why lithium-ion batteries catch fire and the possible means of minimizing the risks, they have to familiarize themselves with how the cells function. Lithium batteries are manufactured to supply high energy densities to their intended electronic devices while minimizing their weight or bulk. The lightweight properties of lithium-ion batteries installed in their design translate to slim partitions between the pack’s cells as well as a thing outer casing/ covering. The partitions can easily be punctured as they are fragile, and once the battery is damaged, a short emerges whose spark can ignite the highly reactive electrolyte.
Another primary possibility for the batteries’ ability to catch fire could be due to charging, especially overcharging or fast charging. Users should be aware of the fact that lithium batteries are prone to shorting faults in which a small amount of lithium metal forms inside the cells during charging. This ultimately shorts the internal electrodes, and thus a high current flow finds its way through it. The high current leads to Joule heating to the point of thermal runaway. At this point, the contents within the cells exert pressure on the battery and ignite a flame that could cause an explosion.
How to minimize the risk of lithium battery fires
The chances of fire-related incidents or explosions with lithium-ion batteries mostly depend on the user’s trend in handling the battery packs. However, there are a few measures one can take to reduce such risks, and they include:
1.Avoid storing lithium-ion batteries together
As much as you may adore organization, with everything at its designated location, you should avoid storing lithium-ion batteries together. This especially applies during traveling, where users would be tempted to dump all their electronic devices into one plastic bag. When lithium-ion batteries come into contact with each other’s terminals, it may compromise the polarity, and this could lead to leakages and ignite flames.
2.Avoid overcharging your batteries
Lithium-ion batteries do not suffer from the ‘memory effect’ defect that its predecessors went through during charging. They can thus be recharged and discharged as many times as possible. Draining them entirely before recharging or over-charging them can be risky as this could lead to internal damages that compromise the composition of the cells and cause fires.
3.Avoid subjecting the batteries to extreme temperatures
Don’t store the batteries in places with high temperatures. Such areas may include hot vehicles during a hot day. We also tend to use our laptops in bed and doze off with the devices covered by blankets. This could overheat the gadget and cause damage to the lithium-ion battery inside.
Lithium-ion batteries are found everywhere from conventional electronic equipment such as smartphones, laptops, and remote controls to high-end inventions like electric vehicles and planes. Although accidents related to these battery packs may seem rare, those that occur tend to be unique as they result in fire-related incidents or explosions.
Nothing is perfect in the making, and as much as lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized the evolution of technology, they come pre-installed with their flaws. This, however, does not make them any less of an award-winning power solution that has made a legendary impression in the battery industry for decades.