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PHMSA Releases Safety Advisory Notice for the Disposal and Recycling of Lithium Batteries in Commercial Transportation

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June 27, 2022
PHMSA

With their energy density and clean-energy capabilities, the potential for lithium batteries to change the world is clear and demand for them is increasing across the globe. The U.S. Department of Energy projects the lithium battery market to grow by a factor of five to ten over the next decade, including the deployment of over one trillion lithium batteries for electric vehicles and other mobility devices.

While exciting, this anticipated growth presents the potential for safety risks. Lithium batteries are hazardous materials and can cause fires whether they are new, used, defective, or damaged. To minimize this risk, lithium batteries must be shipped in compliance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR parts 171-180). Recent inspections by investigators from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) have found that many businesses improperly package and ship lithium batteries, especially those for disposal or recycling. Such risky, non-compliant behaviors have led to unnecessary and preventable accidents. In one example from 2021, a shipment of discarded lithium batteries caught fire on the highway while in transit to the Port of Virginia. These batteries were mis-declared as “computer parts” and reportedly burned hot enough to create a hole through the metal container’s structure.

PHMSA is committed to helping businesses and individuals ship lithium batteries safely. As part of our outreach efforts, we recently released a Safety Advisory Notice for the Disposal and Recycling of Lithium Batteries in Commercial Transportation, which articulates the packaging, hazard communication, training, and emergency response information requirements for shipments of lithium batteries. The notice also highlights the unique HMR requirements for damaged, defective, and recalled lithium batteries.

This new advisory can be found on our Transporting Lithium Batteries homepage, alongside existing resources from PHMSA and our federal partners. We encourage you to help us spread this important safety message by sharing with partners in your community and throughout the lithium battery value chain. If you have suggestions or feedback to help us advance the safe transportation of lithium batteries, please contact us at training@dot.gov.

 

This article was submitted to CHEMTREC by PHMSA and while CHEMTREC believes the contents to be accurate at the time of posting, it makes no representations regarding the veracity of the content nor its use for a particular purpose.

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