Lithium-Ion Battery Safety

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in rechargeable electronics, from smart phones, laptops and tablets, to scooters, bikes and electric cars - and chances are you are using them to power your devices. You may have heard about recent fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, which were not limited to e-bike batteries only. These fires are preventable by following these guidelines:

Safety Guidelines

  • Purchase and use devices from reputable sources and only batteries and devices that have an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Electrical Testing Laboratories (ETL) mark, which indicate that the battery and/or device has been safety tested and will perform as expected compared to non-UL or non-ETL products.
  • Charge the device or batteries using chargers that bear the UL or ETL mark, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions at all times. Make sure to charge the device in a safe place - never under a pillow, on a bed or couch, or similar setting - and do not overload outlets.
    • “Fleet charging” of multiple e-scooter or e-bike batteries is NOT permitted inside any Columbia University campus or residential building or on Columbia University property.
  • Store the device/battery at room temperature, out of direct sunlight and away from open flames or anything flammable
A Dell laptop battery that is UL certified, with UL and ETL logos underneath.

Signs of a Problem

  • Discontinue use immediately if a battery or device appears to be overheating, bulging, changing color, leaking, or emitting a strange odor or sound. If safe to do so, unplug and move the object away from anything combustible and call 911.
A bulging lithium-ion battery

Battery Disposal

  • Do not discard lithium-ion batteries in trash.
  • Follow chemical/hazardous waste procedures for disposal of fabricated batteries in research.
  • Non-damaged small (< 2 lbs. in weight) batteries should be placed in one of the many specific battery recycling bins found on campus.
  • Prior to battery recycling place clear tape on battery terminals to prevent contact with another terminal and a short circuit.
A battery recycling bin against a wall

For any questions, contact [email protected] or [email protected].