Transportation Regulations for Lithium Batteries

Written by alexandra schmidt
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Transportation Regulations for Lithium Batteries
(Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Lithium and lithium-ion batteries are found in a variety of consumer goods, including laptop computers, cameras, watches and cell phones. Transport of lithium batteries is regulated by the United States government and varies depending on the size of the battery.

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Small Consumer Batteries

The small consumer lithium batteries found in cameras and watches, or the lithium-ion batteries found in cell phones and laptops, are exempt from hazardous materials shipping regulations if their lithium content is under 8.0 grams. Packages containing more than 24 lithium or lithium-ion cells or 12 lithium or lithium-ion batteries must be marked to show they contain lithium, must come with a document that shows they contain lithium, be able to withstand a 3.9-foot drop test with no damage to batteries, and not exceed the limit of 30kg (excluding when batteries are packaged with or inside equipment, such as a computer).

Medium Lithium Batteries

Lithium or lithium-ion batteries that have a lithium content between 8.0 and 25 grams are labelled as medium batteries. They fall under the Class 9 hazardous material classification, and must be shipped under those regulations unless transported by motor vehicle or rail. If they are shipped by vehicle or rail, they must still meet the shipping requirements of the small consumer batteries. If they are not exempt, the package must be marked "Lithium batteries - forbidden for transport aboard aircraft and vessel" all in capital letters. They must also be in special 4G fiberboard boxes and contain a special "CAUTION!" lithium battery label with specific dimensions, colours, and pictures.

Large Lithium Batteries

Lithium or lithium-ion batteries that have a lithium content over 25 grams are labelled as large batteries. They fall under the Class 9 hazardous material classification, and must be shipped under those regulations. The package must be marked "Lithium batteries - forbidden for transport aboard aircraft and vessel" all in capital letters. They must also be in special 4G fiberboard boxes and contain a special "CAUTION!" lithium battery label with specific dimensions, colours, and pictures.

Transportation Security Administration: Traveling with batteries

The Department of Transportation (DOT) does not allow loose lithium batteries in checked baggage, as of January 1, 2008. They can be kept in your carry-on baggage. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends that you buy only batteries that are approved for your device, and store them in separate bags or cases if the original packaging is not available. This will prevent them from coming in contact with other batteries or metal objects, which could possibly cause short-circuiting.

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