The Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning customers against purchasing loose lithium-ion battery cells that can be used for vapes, flashlights and other small devices. In particular, the CPSC has issued a warning for 18650 cells, which are slightly larger than AA batteries and are typically manufactured as part of large battery packs. They’ve been popping up on e-commerce websites, though, separated, rewrapped and sold individually. CPSC says using the repacked cells could result in “fires, explosions, serious injuries and even death.”
According to the CPSC’s warning, ,the problem with repacked 18650 cells sold online is that they may have exposed metal positive and negative terminals. When they come in contact with metal objects, such as keys or loose change in the pocket, they could short-circuit and overheat. That could then cause the cells to spew out burning materials.
As The Verge notes, there have been documented cases of exploding 18650 cells over the past few years, but it’s not quite clear why the CPSC is singling them out when other types of lithium-ion cells could also potentially catch fire. That said, the commission’s warning seems focus on cells taken from battery packs — there are 18650 batteries sold with protection circuits. The CPSC says it’s now working with eBay and other e-commerce sites to remove listings selling loose cells.