You may not think of cell phones as dangerous but as their use rises, so does the risk of fires and other unexpected mishaps. There've been scattered reports of cell phones exploding and catching fire and even of cell phones emitting sparks that ignite gasoline fires. In response, the industry and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have issued some safety tips.
Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries, which are commonly found in todays cellular phones, have a lot of energy in a small package, the commission notes. Li-Ion batteries are more sensitive to physical stress than alkaline batteries found in toys and flashlights and need to be treated with more care.
Neither CPSC nor the cell phone lobbyists made any mention of British researchers' warnings that children should avoid using cell phones because of the risk of brain tumors from long-term exposure to radio frequency emissions.
Here are the safety tips from the CPSC and the cell phone industry's lobbying arm:
1. Do not use incompatible cell phone batteries and chargers. Some Web sites and second-hand dealers, not associated with reputable manufacturers and carriers, might be selling incompatible or even counterfeit batteries and chargers. Consumers should purchase manufacturer or carrier recommended products and accessories. If unsure about whether a replacement battery or charger is compatible, contact the manufacturer of the battery or charger.
2. Do not permit a battery out of the phone to come in contact with metal objects, such as coins, keys or jewelry.
3. Do not crush, puncture or put a high degree of pressure on the battery as this can cause an internal short-circuit, resulting in overheating.
4. Avoid dropping the cell phone. Dropping it, especially on a hard surface, can potentially cause damage to the phone and battery. If you suspect damage to the phone or battery, take it to a service center for inspection.
5. Do not place the phone in areas that may get very hot, such as on or near a cooking surface, cooking appliance, iron, or radiator.
6. Do not get your phone or battery wet. Even though they will dry and appear to operate normally, the circuitry could slowly corrode and pose a safety hazard.
7. Follow battery usage, storage and charging guidelines found in the users guide.
CPSC handled three recalls last year -- the Kyocera Smartphone, Kyocera Slider, K400 and 3200 Series and Verizon Wireless LG-brand cell phones.
"CPSC has received reports of incidents and injuries involving cell phones batteries and chargers in a variety of environments," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "CPSC will continue to do its part by investigating and recalling batteries that present a safety hazard, and we ask that consumers do their part by following some basic safety steps in their day-to-day use of cell phone batteries."
CPSC also urges consumers to properly dispose of their old batteries and equipment. All major carriers have recycling programs. For more information, go to www.recyclewirelessphones.com.