Emergency Technical Decon and Cool Clean Technologies Confirm Lithium Battery Fire Contaminants Cleaned from PPE
Published: 5/01/2023
Author: Chief Mike Duyck (Ret.), President, Emergency Technical Decon

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are seemingly everywhere. They are used in laptops, smartphones, e-bikes, cordless tools, and electric cars. They have long battery life for their small size, which makes them very useful for manufacturers to use in consumer products. However, age, misuse, and manufacturing issues can create major ignition risks. 

LIBs are made with flammable materials that, when they are overheated, punctured, or have an electrical fault, can result in a thermal runaway that causes a fire or explosion. As use of these batteries rises, there are more reports of LIB fires happening in homes and vehicles

LIB fires are particularly dangerous because they cannot be extinguished easily with water. The source of the gasses creating the flames is confined within a cell battery, which does not allow water in. It requires a huge volume of water to cool a LIB fire and even then, LIBs risk reigniting. Instead, fire departments are seeing LIB fire suppression success with F-500 Encapsulator Agent, a chemical additive designed to absorb heat for example. 

LIB fires grow faster, burn hotter, and generate dangerous pollutants, including acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, toxic gases, and metals such as cobalt and lithium products. While firefighters who respond to LIB fires wear protective gear, many of these carcinogens and toxic compounds leave hazardous residue on the gear that will harm firefighters if left uncleaned. Water extractor washing techniques have been insufficient in cleaning gear used in average fires, but especially when it comes to incidents involving LIBs. With the number of these fires increasing steadily, firefighters need a cleaning procedure that will help keep them safe after a LIB fire is extinguished.

As a direct response to this urgent need to find an effective cleaning solution, Emergency Technical Decon and Cool Clean Technologies responded to the call on the heels of their other completed research showing up to 100% removal of PAHs, heavy metals, and PFAS contamination with their liquid CO2+  process. The two companies conducted a preliminary test to evaluate lithium removal strategies using CO2+ cleaning technology. The technology uses liquid CO2 with environmentally-friendly detergents and follows decontamination protocols developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). CO2+ technology has proven successful in removing a wide range of fireground contaminants, and the test results showed an average lithium removal rate of over 80%. This is a promising result to help ensure the removal of carcinogens and toxins, even as the hazards that firefighters face continue to change. 

"We're excited that the fire service finally has an option to address contamination from electric vehicle- and battery-related incidents and similar calls," said ETD President Mike Duyck. "Firefighters are responding to fires involving these technologies at a rapidly increasing rate with, until now, no solution that significantly removes these carcinogens from their protective gear. Water extractor washing techniques were failing, so we knew we had to push to find a solution quickly."

ETD and Cool Clean Technologies are continuing to develop this cleaning procedure and increase how many dangerous contaminants can be removed with CO2+ technology. "We are pleased with the results of this first lithium removal study showing significant toxic residue removal from firefighter gear exposed to lithium-ion battery combustion products," said Cool Clean Technologies R&D Director Nelson Sorbo, Ph.D. "As with other toxic compound removal capabilities, the goal is to reach complete decontamination of firefighter gear. Our team will be working hard to achieve this important milestone."

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