Batteries are a common part of daily life; they provide power for everything from your car to your smartphone. Although batteries are inherently safe when intact, most battery types contain harmful chemicals that can cause problems if the leaked, including damage to the device holding the battery and anyone exposed to its contents. Understanding the dangers of battery acid can help you make better decisions when handling and storing batteries.
The Health Effects of Battery Acid
Exposure to the chemicals contained in batteries can lead to health problems, even if no physical contact with the acid is made. For example, in lead-acid batteries, breathing the exposed lead from a leak can cause brain and kidney damage. In children and pregnant women, this exposure can be particularly devastating. In addition, these types of batteries contain sulfuric acid. This corrosive chemical can cause severe damage to your skin if contact is made. Nickel-cadmium batteries also contain harmful chemicals and can cause serious health problems if ingested such as damage to internal organs. Small batteries can also be ingested accidentally by small children; once inside the body, these batteries can begin leaking hazardous chemicals directly into the stomach. However, nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion batteries are generally considered safe and contain little or no hazardous materials.
To avoid exposure to hazardous materials, you should always be vigilant when working with batteries. Always use a battery for its designed purpose; when forced beyond their designs, batteries are more likely to leak or vent dangerous chemicals. Wearing protective clothing is a good way to prevent burns on your skin. Working in a well-ventilated room can help you avoid breathing harmful vapors. If the battery is rechargeable, research the battery to determine how long it should be charged to avoid any overheating issues.
If you have young children in your house, you need to take extra precautions with batteries. Small batteries, such as those found in watches and other devices, can easily be grabbed and swallowed by a child. Battery-powered toys are another source of small batteries, and children are likely to stumble across these batteries by accident. Some parents choose to avoid the danger of small batteries by not buying battery-powered toys until their children are older.
Proper Battery Storage Methods
Improper battery storage can lead to a leaking battery. Always keep your batteries in a cool and dry space; temperatures over 120 degrees Fahrenheit can cause batteries to overheat and swell up. Keeping batteries in a closet or drawer, as long as it remains room temperature, should be sufficient to prevent storage damage. Never store a battery-powered device with its batteries intact. Leaving a battery in a device that you will be storing for a long time can drain the battery and may even lead to some unpleasant surprises, such as battery leaks, when you retrieve the device from storage.
Safe Ways to Dispose of Batteries
Due to the hazardous chemicals contained in batteries, throwing out old batteries with your other garbage can hurt the environment. Fortunately, local governments and companies have made battery recycling easy. Some cities hold regular hazardous disposal events to collect old batteries and electronics. A nearby office or electronics store may be willing to take your batteries as well.