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Hoverboard Headaches: Lithium-ion Batteries Pose Recall Challenges

With half a million “hoverboards” being recalled, lithium-ion batteries are back in the news in a big way.

Since the trend took off late last year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has received dozens of reports of batteries on these self-balancing scooters catching on fire, causing injuries and property damage.

Recalls that receive this much attention are always challenging, but the lithium-ion batteries they contain pose an additional level of complexity regarding transportation and disposal. Because these batteries are considered hazardous by the Department of Transportation (DOT), they require strong outer packaging and a safety vent or other system to prevent violent rupture during normal transport. And those are just the rules for properly manufactured batteries. Those that are damaged or defective are typically subject to additional requirements. The DOT was so concerned about the transport of these products, it issued a safety alert last December stating that violation of these rules could result in civil or criminal penalties.

While regulations can vary by state, hazardous waste also requires specialized disposal and recycling, which can increase costs significantly. By separating the battery from the rest of the product, these costs can be reduced while mitigating the environmental impact.

The full scope and impact of this recall is just beginning to take shape, but by complying with the various regulatory agencies involved, hoverboard companies can avoid additional fines and litigation that could otherwise follow.

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