The recalls of lithium-ion batteries used in notebook computers has been expanding regularly since August. Recently, we learned that there may be more recalls to come -- and these may go beyond computers, involving other electronic products as well.
The culprit behind all of these recalls: lithium-ion batteries made by Sony Energy Devices Corp., of Japan. Sony, the supplier of batteries to many notebook computer manufacturers, has already announced it will be executing a global exchange program for potentially hazardous batteries. The company is currently working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to identify the products that could potentially pose a fire risk. CPSC spokesperson Julie Vallese said the agency expects to announce a Sony recall sometime in October.
"The upcoming Sony recall could very well expand beyond notebook computers and could include DVD players and portable gaming devices," said Vallese. The Wall Street Journal has reported
almost as many fires related to portable DVD players as for laptop computers. The CPSC is in the process of verifying the actual number of reports. "The risk of a battery fire is low, but real," Vallese added. There are billions of batteries in service, but only 47 fires reported, she noted.
Product defects fall into two classes: design defects and sample defects. Design defects affect an entire production run of a particular product. Those problems are usually easy to identify and fix. Sample defects affect only some of products of the production run and are usually due to poor quality control. The latter is the case with the defective Sony batteries. Some battery cells manufactured on one of Sony’s production lines during a specific period of time were contaminated with microscopic metal particles. The particles can come into contact with other parts of the battery cell, causing a short circuit and sometimes a fire. But tracking down the products that contain defective batteries isn’t easy once they’ve been distributed throughout the marketplace. Consumer Reports believes Sony is doing the right thing by casting a wide net to get all potentially affected products out of the hands and homes of consumers.
What to do
Batteries for notebook computers from Dell
, IBM, Lenovo
, Toshiba, and Fujitsu notebook computers have recently been recalled for a variety of problems. You should check www.recalls.gov
if you think you may have an affected model. Meanwhile, watch for future recall notices of Sony batteries, as well as notebook computers, and possibly portable DVD players and gaming devices, by regularly visiting www.recalls.gov
. In the meantime follow our safety tips
for protecting your computer from overheating.