RESCUECOM CEO Featured Talking about Laptop Batteries in Denver Post Article

RESCUECOM Advises on Dangers of Faulty Laptop Batteries in Planes

By Andy Vuong
Denver Post Staff Writer:


More laptop batteries are recalled

The laptop computer battery recall is growing rapidly, reaching more than 7 million units after three of the world's largest computer manufacturers issued new recalls last week.

And the impact is spreading to air travel. Airlines including Virgin Atlantic Airways have forbidden passengers from using laptops that have batteries on the recall lists.

Denver International Airport's two largest carriers, United Airlines and Frontier Airlines, haven't instituted a new policy regarding the batteries but said they are closely watching the recalls.

"We have been monitoring the situation," said Robin Wiesner, a spokeswoman for Denver-based Frontier.

If the carrier were to put a restriction in place, Wiesner said, it would tell passengers to remove the battery from the laptop while in flight.

Last week, Toshiba, Fujitsu and the makers of the IBM Thinkpad - Lenovo and IBM - told consumers to return Sony lithium-ion batteries that came standard with those brands of computers. Dell, the first computer company to issue a recall, increased its estimate of affected batteries to 4.2 million from 4.1 million. Apple has also asked for a recall.

Thus far, the recalls have been for Sony batteries that were sold from 2003 to 2006.

Sony urged other computer manufacturers that also use its lithium-ion batteries to issue recalls, which will likely place more laptop units on the recall list. The company said the affected batteries can overheat and burst into flames.

Sony said it has added new safeguards to its manufacturing process to try to ensure that the batteries it is making don't have the same problem. The problem "cannot be completely eliminated but we've taken steps to greatly reduce it," said Sony spokesman David Yang.

Sony controls about 25 percent of the lithium-ion battery market, producing an estimated 20 million batteries a year, according to computer expert David A. Milman.

"What happens is when the (defective) battery has a problem, the safety net that is built into the battery to protect it from catching on fire or overheating breaks," Milman said. "Most of the lithium-ion batteries that fail just stop working and they break down, but some of them have exploded and caught fire."

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese said there were about 50 incidents of burning batteries reported in the past five years.

"While the risk of smoking or fire with these batteries is a real risk, the risk is low," Vallese said. "We don't want to give the notion thatnotebook computers are unsafe to use."

However, an IBM Thinkpad caught fire at Los Angeles International Airport two weeks ago, frightening travelers. Apple reported that a couple of consumers have suffered minor burns as a result of faulty batteries. An Arizona man said that his truck caught fire in July after a Dell laptop that was placed in his passenger seat burst into flames.

Milman, founder and chief executive of Rescuecom, a computer repair and services company based in Syracuse, N.Y., said he was concerned that laptops using the affected batteries are still allowed on flights while the recalls are in effect.

"You look at the airline industry spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars so that you can't bring your toothpaste on an airplane, yet you've got batteries (on board) that have been known to catch fire and explode," Milman said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Staff writer Andy Vuong can be reached at 303-954-1209 or avuong@denverpost.com.

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