Study Shows That Lithium-Ion Batteries Give Off Harmful Toxic Gases
Image: Samsung

Study Shows That Lithium-Ion Batteries Give Off Harmful Toxic Gases

The gases can cause strong skin irritation, inflamed eyes and nasal passages

October 24, 2016

Much attention has focused on lithium-ion batteries in the wake of Samsung's recall of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone due to a fire hazard, and the batteries may be about to get even more.

Many electronic devices are powered by these batteries, such as smartphones and laptops. They are present in an estimated two billion devices around the world. Samsung was forced to recall the Note 7 because several of them overheated and caught fire or even exploded, but the phones were not the first devices to do so. Laptop computers have also overheated and caught fire in the past.

Scientists in China believe that the public needs to know more about the batteries and the potential hazards associated with them, hazards that have now been proven to include more than combustion. Researchers at the Institute of NBC Defense and Tsinghua University claim to have identified more than 100 toxic gases, including carbon monoxide, that are given off by the batteries.

"Nowadays, lithium-ion batteries are being actively promoted by many governments all over the world as a viable energy solution to power everything from electric vehicles to mobile devices," said Dr. Jie Sun, professor at the Institute of NBC Defense and lead author of the study. "It is imperative that the general public understand the risks behind this energy source."

Sun and her colleagues believe that the gases given off by lithium-ion batteries are dangerous and even have the potential to be fatal. They can also, she said, cause strong skin irritations and inflamed eyes and nasal passages.

Research shows that much of the danger happens during and after the charging process. The scientists discovered that a fully-charged battery gives off more of the toxic gases than a battery at only 50 percent power.

Batteries may also overheat if they are charged using the wrong kind of charger. Apple has filed a lawsuit in federal court in California alleging that most of the Apple chargers sold by Amazon were knock-offs rather than being made by Apple.

The researchers were able to heat 20,000 lithium-ion batteries to the point of combustion in the study. They stated that most of the devices containing these batteries ended up exploding, and all emitted numerous types of toxic gases.