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DOT Bans Loose Lithium Batteries

Batteries are the newest addition to the TSA's list of prohibited items. Starting tomorrow, loose lithium batteries are banned from checked luggage, though passengers may pack electronic items with lithium batteries installed. Lithium batteries in their original packaging or in plastic bags may be placed in carry-on bags, with a limit of two per passenger.

This move is meant to reduce the risk of fires in the cargo hold. "Doing something as simple as keeping a spare battery in its original retail packaging or a plastic zip-lock bag will prevent unintentional short-circuiting and fires," said Krista Edwards, deputy administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

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This new restriction shouldn't be too inconvenient because batteries are still permitted, though under specific circumstances. But, it is one more item on the TSA's ever-growing list to remember when packing.

Update: March 18, 2009

The DOT has a whole slew of tips for traveling with batteries, in addition to the more general battery guidelines that clear up some of the questions being asked in the comments below. Plus, it looks like there has been a change in the number of batteries allowed for personal use. Here are some key points:

  • Carry spare batteries in the original packaging. If that's not possible, pack the batteries in such a way that the ends of the batteries won't touch one another, and batteries won't come in contact with any other metal objects (coins, keys, jewelry, etc.)
  • For safe transport of loose batteries, you can also put tape over the battery's contacts (at either end).
  • Make sure not to pack batteries in such a way as to crush or puncture them, as it can cause a short-circuit.
  • For personal use, there is no restriction on the number of batteries you can carry on, though there are restrictions for larger lithium ion and lithium metal batteries. Here's the DOT quote: "For personal use, there is generally no restriction on the number of spare batteries allowed in carry-on baggage. This is the case for cell phone batteries, "hearing aid" button cells, and AA batteries [or] AAA batteries available in retail stores, as well as almost all standard laptop computer batteries."

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