Lithium batteries are dangerous goods, much like gasoline, propane, and sulphuric acid. In Canada, the shipping and importing of lithium batteries are subject to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992 and its Regulations.
There are two main kinds of lithium batteries:
A lithium metal battery is usually non-rechargeable, contains metallic lithium, and features a higher energy density than other non-rechargeable batteries. Lithium metal batteries are often used in calculators, pacemakers, hearing aids, remote car locks and watches.
A lithium ion battery is rechargeable, does not contain metallic lithium, and features high energy density. A lithium polymer battery is considered a type of lithium ion battery. Lithium ion batteries are used in consumer products such as cell phones, electric vehicles, laptop computers, power tools, and tablets.
While most lithium batteries are safe, some have overheated and caught fire. Once ignited, they can cause any nearby batteries to overheat and catch fire as well. These fires are difficult to put out and produce toxic fumes.
The new ban under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDGR) applies only to lithium metal batteries shipped as cargo on passenger aircraft. It does not apply to batteries already contained in devices, therefore passengers with medical equipment are not affected by the ban.
Air carriers that service remote communities, particularly in the North, will be able to apply to Transport Canada for an Equivalency Certificate, subject to strict safety precautions, in cases where cargo-only flights are not available or feasible.
All designs and types of lithium batteries must meet the requirements of the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria to be shipped safely. Shippers and importers must meet the requirements set out in the TDGR for the handling, offering for transport, transporting and importing of lithium batteries in Canada. The requirements vary by mode of transport.