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LG says laptop batteries safe despite 'billion to one' blast

Unusual circumstances, not battery, to blame

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LG Electronics will not recall a laptop battery of the model involved in the incineration of one of its notebooks last month. It said that independent testing laid the blame for the blaze elsewhere.

On 9 January, a Korean journalist’s LG laptop burst into flames at the Bestian Medical Center in southern Seoul. The owner claimed the notebook was in sleep mode at the time.

The burned battery was subsequently examined by the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (Keri), a government-sponsored testing firm. The organisation concluded that the explosion was caused by a combination of unusually high pressure and temperature.

Fortunately for LG, Keri ruled that the battery type was safe to use in ordinary situations - normal temperatures and pressures, presumably - and that it meets all the necessary international safety standards.

That said, a Keri researcher quoted by the Korea Times newspaper admitted that while the organisation had pinpointed the cause of the explosion - the high heat and pressure - it was unable to explain how those conditions had come about.

Enough, then, for LG Electronics - and its battery supplier, LG Chem - to let the battery off the hook. LG said it had been able to get the journalist's data off the damaged machine and had supplied him with a new one.

Both companies said the battery model had been proved to be safe.

However, the Keri researcher said there are too many batteries out there to generalise, and that it's impossible to guarantee the safety of any one of them. The chances of a battery exploding are about a billion to one, he said.

The moral of the story: stay away from unexpected combinations of unusually high pressures and temperatures, OK?

LG Chem’s decision is bound to remind readers of Sony’s latest embarrassment. Earlier this month a 12-year-old boy in the US was treated in hospital for second-degree burns after his PlayStation Portable spontaneously combusted in his trouser pocket.

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