Signs of a Damaged or Defective Lithium Battery

Posted on 5/1/2023 by Lion Technology Inc.

PHMSA offers a guide to help shippers assess whether a lithium battery is damaged, defective, or recalled (DDR) for transportation purposes. Lithium batteries that take damage, show defects, or are recalled over safety concerns pose a far greater risk of short-circuiting and entering thermal runaway during transportation than non-damaged batteries.

To address the extra risk, shippers must comply with stricter requirements for packaging, labeling, shipping papers, etc. to offer DDR lithium batteries by ground or vessel. Air transportation of damaged, defective or recalled lithium batteries is totally forbidden

Signs of a Damaged or Defective Lithium Battery

PHMSA's guide to the risks of "DDR" lithium cells and batteries identifies tell-tale signs of a damaged or defective lithium battery.

Unusual physical behavior or signs from the battery.

Sustained heat, any form of leak, smell, and fire are tell-tale signs of a damaged battery.

smoking lithium battery device

Knowledge of use or misuse.

If you drop your phone and spill a glass of water on it, you're now aware of possible damage to the device's lithium battery.

lithium battery device doused in water

Loose or damaged wiring.

Wires can loosen or become damaged over time with regular use, when someone tries to alter the device, or even when coming in contact with pests or unintended weather conditions.

lithium batteries and device wiring

Discoloration and corrosion.

Discoloration is easiest to spot when compared to a healthy battery. Corrosion is made evident by a white, blue, or green powdery, grainy substance on a battery's terminals.

discolored lithium metal cells


Pouch cell batteries may swell (like the one in the picture) which is a sign of a damaged battery.

swelling laptop battery or lithium ion battery

Product Recalls Involving Lithium Batteries

Go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website for more information about the latest product recalls. Recent lithium-battery-related product recalls include:

  • Lithium batteries that pose thermal burn and fire hazards due to overheating were recalled, affecting approximately 7,250 units meant for golf carts and similar vehicles.
  • Lithium battery packs that overheat and pose a fire hazard led to the recall of about 53,000 scooters/"hoverboards".

Risks of Damaged, Defective, or Recalled Lithium Batteries

In the guide, PHMSA reminds shippers that damaged, defective, or recalled (DDR) lithium batteries do not qualify for any of the reliefs or exceptions that other batteries might, based on their weight/energy density:

"Unlike undamaged lithium batteries, all DDR lithium batteries are fully regulated under the HMR, regardless of weight. In other words, all hazard communication, emergency response, training, and packaging requirements apply—including shipping papers, markings, and Class 9 lithium battery label."

Understanding the Risks of Damaged Defective or Recalled (DDR) Lithium Batteries. US DOT PHMSA. March 2023. (Emphasis Lion's)

Training to Ship Lithium Batteries

Regulations for packaging, labeling, and documenting shipments of damaged, defective, or recalled lithium batteries are among the many topics covered during every Shipping Lithium Batteries Webinar. Get in on the next session (May 31) for full hazmat training to ship lithium batteries in full compliance with US and international regulations by ground, air, or vessel. 

"Understanding the Risks of Damaged, Defective or Recalled (DDR) Lithium Batteries"  


Tags: DOT compliance, hazmat shipping, lithium batteries

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