Lithium-ion batteries are a safe, high-energy-density power source when designed, manufactured, and used properly. They may generate heat, catch fire, or even explode if they have design defects, are made of low-quality materials, are assembled incorrectly, are used or recharged improperly, or are damaged during transport or handling.

All batteries must be disposed of appropriately.

Users can contact EH&S or their departmental laboratory safety contact for questions or concerns about battery use, storage, or disposal. 

Lithium-ion battery hazards


Lithium is an alkali metal that reacts with water. To prevent a reaction with moisture in ambient air, it must be encased in a compatible substance such as oil. Lithium is flammable and can spontaneously ignite. However, lithium compounds in Li-Ion batteries differ from pure lithium metal and tend to be more stable.

Health hazard

Most incidents with lithium batteries happen when the battery’s shell is damaged, and the lithium is exposed to air/moisture. As mentioned above, lithium compounds in Li-Ion batteries tend to be more stable, though they can still be corrosive, irritating, or toxic, depending on the exact chemistry of your battery.

High voltage

Short circuits and electrical shock can cause injury, blindness, death, and damage equipment permanently. They can cause excess heat, fire, and arcing – where energy ‘jumps’ through the air to a nearby conductive material. This is especially dangerous with batteries that supply continuous strong currents.


Precautions for using batteries

Review the manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheet.

  • Ensure that a written experimental protocol, including safety information, is available;
  • Make sure your batteries, chargers, and associated equipment are tested by an appropriate test standard (e.g., UL 2054), certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), and rated for their intended uses.
  • Inspect your battery for signs of damage before each use: bulging, hissing, leaking, or smoking. Do not use your battery if it displays any of these characteristics.
  • When applicable (such as working with high voltages), understand one-hand working techniques.
  • Remove watches, metal rings, and other metal jewelry when working with or near large batteries or power supplies. If the metal from your jewelry comes into contact with a terminal, you become part of the circuit. Depending on the battery's power, effects can vary from a small electric shock to burns or even electrocution.
  • If you are designing wearables using lithium-ion batteries, make sure they are easily removable if they react while worn.
  • Be familiar with the ISU emergency response guide (PDF).
  • Identify the location of the nearest eyewash and shower and verify that they are accessible.
  • Locate and verify that appropriate fire response and spill cleanup materials are available, including the following:
    • Bucket of sand
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Non-conductive vessel
  • Ensure another person who knows the emergency procedures is in the area.

Rechargeable batteries cannot be recharged at arbitrary rates. The fire potential increases when you charge or discharge a battery faster than the manufacturer recommends. The maximum charging rate on some types of batteries is limited by the speed at which active material can diffuse through a liquid electrolyte. High charging rates may also produce excess gas or other side reactions that permanently lower the battery capacity.

  • DO NOT make or build your own charging circuit.
  • Only use chargers provided and approved by the manufacturer.
  • Charge on non-conductive, non-combustible surfaces.
  • Remove devices and batteries from the charger once fully charged.
  • Prevent arcing by turning the charger off before disconnecting the battery.

  • Store batteries in a dry, cool location with stable temperatures, away from direct sunlight.
  • If applicable, use a LiPo safe bag, which helps contain heat and flames that result if a Li-Ion battery combusts during charging or while in storage.
  • Keep the storage area clear of flammable and combustible storage.
  • Store batteries disconnected from devices.
  • Do not store batteries in direct contact with other batteries.

Do not put lithium-ion batteries in the trash. Do not put discarded batteries in piles.

  • Follow the Waste and Recycling Guidelines (PDF) for disposal of fabricated batteries in research.
  • You can recycle spent batteries by taking them to the EH&S Services Building (2408 Wanda Daley Drive).
  • Intact non-lithium-ion batteries can be disposed of as universal waste. If the battery exceeds 9V, place tape on the battery terminals to prevent contact with another terminal in the bin, which could create a short circuit.
  • Reacting and leaking batteries are considered hazardous waste. Please email EH&S for assistance.

Please email EH&S for information regarding the transport and shipping of Li-Ion batteries.

  • You notice an odor.
  • The battery is hissing or making odd noises.
  • The battery is bulging, swollen, or changes shape in any way.
  • The battery is leaking.
  • The battery is overheating.
  • The battery is visibly corroded or otherwise compromised.

If any of the above happens and you feel endangered, call 911. Move the device away from any materials that could catch fire if it's safe to do so. 

Emergency procedures for working with batteries

Know where your nearest AED is. Use the Building Information page to identify AED locations on campus.

  • Pull the fire alarm before attempting to extinguish a fire. Only use a fire extinguisher if you have been trained to do so. EH&S offers fire extinguisher training online through Workday Learning and Canvas.
  • Keep a bucket of sand and an appropriate fire extinguisher on hand. ABC, CO2, or Halon are all appropriate options. Email EH&S to discuss which is the best option for your work application.

  • If your battery is overheating, hissing, or bulging, and it is safe to do so, immediately move it away from any flammable or combustible materials and place it in a non-conductive vessel (e.g., ceramic pot) or non-conductive surface and allow it to react fully.
  • Email EH&S if you need support or technical assistance.

  • Leaking batteries can pose significant contact and inhalation hazards. Only handle if you are confident in your knowledge of the battery chemistry, properly trained, and wearing appropriate PPE.
  • If you are not confident, trained, and/or have appropriate PPE, contact EH&S. If it is safe to do so, contain the spill. Cordon off the area and alert other personnel to stay away.
  • If you are trained and confident, wearing the appropriate PPE for the hazards of your battery’s unique chemistry, and have the appropriate spill supplies:
    • Collect debris in an appropriate container and move it to your Satellite Accumulation Area. Label it with an appropriately completed hazardous waste tag and request a waste pickup.
    • Leaking batteries cannot be recycled.

Seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 for medical assistance.