Fires on Planes: Faulty Laptop Batteries Blamed

Although the risk is small, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented 339 cases of lithium and lithium-ion batteries for portable electronics overheating, emitting smoke and fumes or exploding since 2003.

A series of fires dating back to 1999 led to a federal regulation in 2004 banning cargo shipments of an earlier generation of batteries from the bellies of passenger aircraft. These batteries, known as lithium batteries, differ from lithium-ion models in that they can't be recharged.

The rule called lithium batteries on commercial airliners "an immediate safety risk" but did not prohibit them from carry-on or checked luggage. The more-advanced lithium-ion batteries account for the majority of battery incidents.

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