ESFI President Brett Brenner was recently interviewed by WUSA9 about lithium-ion battery safety. Watch the interview here.

“WASHINGTON — It may have seemed like a freak accident Thursday when a cellphone exploded at Roosevelt High School, but the number of fires and injuries involving a lithium-ion battery has been growing.

The incident at Roosevelt was just the latest in a string of cases that happened so far in 2024. Just two weeks ago, 23 people were forced out of their homes, and one person was hurt when an electric scooter caught on fire. Back in December, a family’s Christmas was ruined when two charging devices sparked a fire that displaced the family in Sandy Spring, Maryland.

So far, the DC Fire and EMS estimated there have been three incidents this year. In 2023, they counted eight in all. Now, compare all this to 2022, when for the whole year, they only tallied three.

“Everything you pretty much touch that has any kind of energy or light probably has a lithium-ion battery,” said Brett Brenner, President of the Electrical Safety Foundation.

Brenner and the nonprofit he heads are working to prevent injuries related to electrical devices. He told WUSA9 that the occurrences are climbing across the country throughout the year, not just during Christmas when people get new toys or gadgets.

“So, in general, lithium batteries are not dangerous; the problem is having substandard products get into our supply chain, and that’s creating problems.”

The problem has become so serious, the Consumer Safety Product Commission conducted a study that found between 2012-2017 there were more than 25,000 incidents of overheating or fire hazards involving lithium batteries.

Another problem, Brenner explained, is that batteries reach their end-of-life-cycle, sometimes they’re damaged or it’s a combination of factors, including charging problems.

“What happens is you need to have a charger and a battery, so the battery can shut off as well as the charger can shut off,” he said.

Just after the scooter fire, DC Fire Marshal Mitchell Kannry warned of the dangers.

“So it’s really about being smart, right? Not leaving them charged unattended, not overcharging them – following the manufacturer’s recommendations,” Kannry told WUSA9.

Brenner also wants people to know they should look for products that have been tested and certified, one example being the UL symbol.

“It’s really important that you’re purchasing these from big box retailers, people that will stand behind their products and actually give you the warranty and things like that that you would expect.”

And the last important thing: Do not throw these batteries in the trash; they’re supposed to be recycled. In some cases, they can cause dumpster fires. Check with your local city or county on where there is a drop-off location.”