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US Urging Airlines to Ban Cameras in Checked Bags

The U.S. government is urging airlines around the world to ban cameras, laptops, and other large personal electronic devices from checked luggage, citing the risk of batteries causing catastrophic fires.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the recommendation was made in a paper that was recently filed with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an agency that’s part of the U.N.

The FAA conducted tests that involved placing a heater against a fully-charged laptop’s lithium-ion battery, causing the battery’s temperature to continually rise. The agency found that overheating batteries and aerosol cans in close proximity to one another can cause fires and explosions in less than a minute — events that could bring down a passenger plane.


Lithium-ion batteries are used in cameras and photo equipment.

“[I]t was concluded that if a [portable electronic device] is packed in a suitcase with an aerosol can and a thermal runaway event occurs, there is the potential for an aerosol can explosion,” the FAA writes. “The explosion itself may or may not be strong enough to structurally damage the aircraft, but in a Class C cargo compartment it will most likely compromise the Halon fire suppression system […]

“The fire suppression system of the aircraft is then compromised, which could lead to the loss of the aircraft.”

Batteries packed with other permitted items such as rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, and nail polish remover also caused large fires. These fires can burn up to 1,100 °F (594 °C), close to the melting point of aircraft aluminum, and are responsible for 3 cargo jet crashes and 4 pilot deaths since 2006, the Associated Press says.

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