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Cities Grapple with Lithium-Ion Battery Fires

Posted on May 13, 2024

More than ever, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, cities across our nation are contending with dangerous lithium-ion battery fires, many caused by cheaply-made and uninspected batteries. 

 Lithium-ion batteries are well known for sparking fires that spread quickly, emit toxic fumes, and are unable to be put out with water. The batteries can ignite unexpectedly as their components fail, as evidenced by cell phones that suddenly explode. And these days, lithium-ion batteries seem to be everywhere, not only in cell phones but also in laptops, electric cars, bikes, scooters, power tools, and vape pens. 

A large part of the problem, according to fire officials, is that some products have batteries that have not been properly tested for safety. These tend to be cheaper, less well-made products and officials believe that they are the cause of rising numbers of deadly blazes.

Last year in New York City, there were 268 lithium-ion fires and 18 deaths, which is up from 104 fires and 4 deaths in 2021. To date this year, there have been nearly three dozen fires in Manhattan. Other cities are finding rising numbers as well. In San Diego, there were 104 lithium-ion fires in 2023, up from 6 in 2020. In January alone this year, San Diego has had 16 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries.

To help get control, cities like New York have prohibited the sale, rental, lease or distribution of e-bikes, e-scooters, and storage batteries that do not meet safety standards. The city made it illegal to assemble or recondition lithium-ion batters from used parts. New York City also requires retailers to provide battery safety information when selling e-bikes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has created a national task force to guide first responders in national disasters to manage hazardous waste from lithium-ion batteries.

If you or a loved one injured in an accident in the home or workplace would like to talk to an top attorney for explosion and burn injury litigation that may have resulted from a defective product, please contact us to set a time to discuss your legal options.