NY lawmakers push for lithium-ion battery safety regulations after fires

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By Zenebou Sylla and Nouran Salahieh

A group of New York Democrats announced support for federal legislation aimed at regulating lithium-ion battery safety standards after a spate of fires caused by the batteries malfunctioning or overheating.

Lithium-ion batteries, found in many popular consumer products like e-scooters and smartphones, have been under scrutiny amid increasing reports of explosive fires triggered by the batteries, which use flammable materials.

Support in New York for more safeguards comes after at least seven people were injured when a lithium-ion battery-powered scooter exploded in the Bronx early last month. The incident followed a Manhattan apartment building fire in November that injured at least 38 people and was blamed on a lithium-ion battery connected to a micromobility device.

The “Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act,” introduced in the US House of Representatives in late March, sets federal safety standards for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used to power electric scooters and e-bikes and sets guidelines to protect consumers against the risk of fires caused by such batteries, according to the bill.

“Without federal legislation, and so many of these batteries come from across state lines or made overseas or made in China, we will not have a complete and strong solution,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.

Fellow New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand agreed, saying, “We cannot allow for faulty or improperly manufactured batteries to keep causing these dangerous, deadly fires.”

New York City has seen 63 fires and 5 deaths caused by lithium-ion batteries this year alone, Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said during the news conference.

The new lithium-ion battery safety bill was announced last month by Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-NY, who said the legislation would save lives and protect property.

Torres said the latest fire is another reminder “of the escalating threat lithium-ion batteries poses to the public’s safety,” according to a news release.

Two lithium-ion battery related deaths were reported two weeks ago in Queens, where an e-bike caught fire in a vestibule of a building and flames exploded to an upper level, blocking the exit, officials said.

New York City Fire Department Chief Fire Marshal Dan Flynn said the incident in Queens was the 59th lithium-ion battery related fire the agency had battled, according to an Instagram post from the FDNY.

The fire department advised residents to buy UL-certified devices, keep devices at room temperature and keep them away from direct sunlight, among other tips.


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