LiPo Cells in Toys: What Dangers Are Lurking in the Nursery?
July 13, 2011
Whether it is for model cars, toy helicopters, short-range radios or kid’s ride-on toys, a combination of quick recharging, low weight and long running times make kid’s and parent’s eyes light up and enhances the fun factor of such products. The increasing mass production of the batteries in Asia is causing their prices to fall and so making them a most attractive technology for economical toys.
A "Lithium Polymer" battery principally consists of a negative electrode, electrolyte and positive electrode as layered membranes. The outer skin of the battery is very thin and susceptible to physical puncture by sharp or pointed objects. In addition, the energy density is very high. These attributes give rise to potential dangers from the contents of the battery. It can lead to a chemical burn, skin and eye irritation as well as the risk of poisoning if swallowed. Also there are electrical risks and the dangers of explosion or a flash-fire and consequent burns.
Children do not show the same degree of caution in their behavior as adults. If an easily accessible battery awakens the interest of a child, it can quickly lead to physical damage to the battery. Potential leakage of the battery’s contents can then endanger the child’s health.
For this reason, a material safety data sheet for the battery should accompany every product, specifying the actual material it contains. In an emergency, with irritation or poisoning, for example, the necessary information can be quickly obtained and suitable steps taken. If the manufacturer or supplier does not provide a safety data sheet, the information should be included in the user instructions, accompanied by details of treatment in case of contact with the contents – e.g. providing a number for the poison control hotline.
Since manufacturers and dealers are typically subject to intense competition and its resultant cost pressures, there is often less time and money invested in the product’s development and its components than it actually warrants. Chargers and batteries are mostly bought-in parts from a variety of suppliers, which were either purpose-built or must be adapted. These components are often not conceived to work in combination, but they are nevertheless employed with the toy.
Lithium Polymer batteries are electrically sensitive to overloading, short-circuiting, excessive current and to long-term storage in a fully uncharged condition. In many instances, the batteries become damaged or are completely destroyed. The safety data sheet should provide detailed information on what should be done if an explosion occurs, the battery catches fire or it leaks gases and electrolyte.
The best way to protect children is not to expose them, even by accident, to such dangers in the first place. Only products developed with care, experience and consideration for children’s behavior can ensure a high technical standard for LiPo components. The goals of such product development should include avoidance of dangers for all users – whether children or supervising persons – that are not always directly obvious.
Products with LiPo batteries may always present a risk to children even when used as intended. Before purchasing toys powered with LiPo batteries, seek information from a specialist dealer, listen carefully to the advice given and inspect the enclosed operating instructions and safety data sheets closely. You may also find out whether test results by the relevant consumer protection agencies exist for the actual product as well as making sure the product has a seal of approval and certification by an independent testing company, such as SGS Consumer Testing Services, which confirms the safety of the product.
About SGS E-Toys Services
At SGS we are committed to support manufacturers in delivering safe, high quality products to consumers. With E-Toys Services, we ensure safety in the toy industry, which is of paramount importance, not only to importers and manufacturers, but also consumers. Throughout the supply chain, manufacturing processes need to be checked to ensure that the end product complies with all the relevant safety standards.
For more information please contact:
Global Battery and Accumulator Technical Manager
SGS Consumer Testing Services
SGS North America, Inc.
16870 West Bernardo Drive,
CA 92127 USA
t: +1 678 469 9835
The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With more than 59,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.