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US bars lithium-ion batteries from passenger aircraft cargo

The US government on Wednesday issued new rules that prohibit airlines from transporting lithium-ion batteries and cells as cargo on passenger aircraft.

The new Transportation Department rules come after Congress last year directed the agency to adopt the new rules. The new restriction doesn't apply to passengers or crew bringing electronics aboard aircraft.

"This rule will strengthen safety for the traveling public by addressing the unique challenges lithium batteries pose in transportation, " US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said in a statement.

In the past couple of years, the use of lithium-ion batteries has been linked to fires and spewing smoke in a slew of products, including Samsung's now-canceled Galaxy Note 7, hoverboards and Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

However, the rules are expected to have little immediate affect. The Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning about the batteries in 2016, urging airlines to examine the risks associated with transporting lithium batteries as cargo, including "the potential risk for a catastrophic hull loss. " The alert covered batteries being transported as components and not those already inside devices such as laptops, tablets, phones or hoverboards.

Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which issued the new rules, noted that three aircraft accidents, including two fatal crashes, have been linked to lithium-ion batteries being transported as cargo catching fire.

The new rules allow for lithium-ion cells and batteries to be shipped on cargo-only aircraft at a state of charge not exceeding 30 percent when packed with or contained within equipment of devices. The agency also said it would allow up to two lithium-ion batteries for use in medical devices on passenger aircraft at a state of charge higher than 30 percent when the batteries' destination isn't serviced by daily cargo flights.

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