Interpretation Response #09-0160
Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.
Interpretation Response Details
March 30, 2010
Mr. Kyle Pitsor
Vice President, Government Relations
National Electrical Manufacturers Association
1300 North 17th Street, Suite 1752
Rosslyn, VA 22209
Ref. No.: 09-0160
Dear Mr. Pitsor:
This responds to your July 13, 2009 letter requesting clarification of the applicability of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) to the transport of used dry cell batteries and used lithium metal batteries. You reference a letter issued by this Office to Kinsbursky Brothers Inc. (09-0090) pertaining to the transport of used alkaline batteries transported for recycling or disposal. You provide additional test data illustrating different short circuit scenarios involving alkaline batteries, carbon zinc, lithium coin cells and lithium cylindrical cells.
In letter Ref. No. 09-0090, we stated that based on the test data provided, spent 1.5 volt alkaline dry cell batteries are not subject to regulation under the HMR when transported by highway or rail because they are not likely to generate a dangerous quantity of heat nor are they likely to short circuit or create sparks when they are transported in a packaging with no other battery types or chemistries present. You request confirmation that used or spent non-lithium batteries utilizing dry chemistries (i.e., alkaline and carbon zinc) that are combined in the same package without terminal protection do not pose an unreasonable risk in transportation and, thus are not subject to the HMR.
Your understanding is correct. After further consideration and analysis of the battery chemistries and sizes in question, and based on information available to us, it is the opinion of this Office that used or spent dry, sealed batteries of both non-rechargeable and rechargeable designs, described as "Batteries, dry, sealed, n.o.s." in the Hazardous Materials Table in § 172.101 of the HMR and not specifically covered by another proper shipping name, with a marked rating of 9-volt or less that are combined in the same package and transported by highway or rail for recycling, reconditioning, or disposal are not subject to the HMR. Note that batteries utilizing different chemistries (i.e., those battery chemistries specifically covered by another proper shipping name) as well as dry, sealed batteries with a marked rating greater than 9-volt may not be combined with used or spent batteries of the type "Batteries, dry, sealed, n.o.s." in the same package. Note also, that the clarification provided in this letter does not apply to batteries that have been reconditioned for reuse.
You also provided test data on lithium metal coin cells and cylindrical lithium metal cells representing various states of discharge. Lithium metal cells were placed randomly in a rigid plastic container. Temperatures were measured in various locations inside the container. Even in a partially discharged state, the lithium cells were capable of producing higher temperatures than the comparable alkaline and carbon zinc batteries. Further, most lithium batteries are comprised of a sealed metal can and contain a flammable electrolyte not found in other dry battery chemistries. We have concerns that the observed elevated temperatures and many unprotected lithium cells in close proximity to each other in an enclosed space could lead to increased pressure inside individual lithium cells, leaking of the flammable electrolyte and possibly a thermal runaway situation characterized by rapidly increasing temperatures and exothermic side reactions. We have observed various transportation and non-transportation incidents involving lithium batteries not properly protected from short circuits. While these incidents likely resulted from a lack of compliance, they serve to illustrate the point that even while partially discharged, lithium batteries pose a risk of evolving a dangerous quantity of heat while in transportation. Therefore, spent or used lithium batteries must be offered for transportation in a manner that protects against short circuits, damage and the evolution of a dangerous quantity of heat in accordance with all applicable requirements of the HMR.
I trust this satisfies your inquiry. If we can be of further assistance, please contact us.
Charles E. Betts
Chief, Standards Development
Office of Hazardous Materials Standards
|§ 173.185||Lithium cells and batteries|