Caution advised for using rechargeable batteries, battery chargers

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Devices requiring rechargeable batteries are everywhere – smartphones, power tools, small appliances such as hand-held vacuum cleaners, and even children’s toys.

Because they are so common, it is easy to forget that these devices and their chargers may create fire hazards. On June 8, a house fire in Ontario involved a malfunctioning battery charger that overheated and caused over $200,000 in damage. A $450,000 house fire in Ontario in March resulted from using a battery charger with the wrong kind of battery.

“A battery fire could happen if a device with a defective battery is left unattended and it overheats,” says Jack Smith, president of the Canada Safety Council. “Also, wireless devices should be kept away from anything that could catch fire, like a bed, pillows, or papers.”

To safeguard your home and personal safety, the Canada Safety Council has the following recommendations for the usage of rechargeable batteries and battery chargers.

- Locate your battery recharging station in a safe area, such as a tabletop clear of any other objects – never near anything flammable. Be careful not to overload any power bars or outlets.

- Whenever possible, recharge batteries while you are present in the home. Have a working smoke detector in the room where the batteries are being recharged, and make sure a fire extinguisher is nearby if needed.

- Shut off battery-powered devices, such as laptops and tablet computers, when they are not in use.

- Do not leave laptops, tablets, cellphones or similar devices unattended on couches or beds, or in other areas where they may overheat and come into contact with potentially flammable materials. Ensure good air circulation around devices at all times.

- Make a habit or removing old batteries from your home at least once or twice a year. Check with your municipality for hazardous waste collection sites, or drop-off sites at retail stores.

- Check for battery recalls on Health Canada’s Consumer Products Safety website.

- Never put non-rechargeable batteries in a battery charger. Recharge rechargeable batteries using the correct charger.

- When recharging batteries, do not mix brands of batteries. For example, recharge Duracell batteries together in one batch, and Energizer batteries in another. Do not recharge Duracell and Energizer batteries together.

- In your devices, do not mix rechargeable and disposable batteries.

Organizations: Canada Safety Council, Health Canada, Consumer Products Safety

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