Though New York City has banned the use of unlicensed lithium-ion batteries, the fires they cause are still plaguing the metropolis.
FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh last week visited Washington, DC, to talk to federal lawmakers, urging them to act on lithium-ion battery legislation.
“In the last two years, New York City fires and deaths from lithium-ion batteries have caused almost 500 fires and killed 24,” Kavanagh said at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting, joined by a panel of Underwriters Laboratories experts and fire officials.
According to data from the FDNY, there were 256 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries citywide last year, along with 135 injuries and 18 deaths.
In Queens specifically, the FDNY said lithium-ion batteries caused 48 fires and four fatalities, including the loss of a 93-year-old woman in Ozone Park in August, and a 7-year-old boy and 19-year-old woman in Astoria in April.
So far, in 2024, as of Monday there had been nine e-bike fires citywide, four of them in Queens, the FDNY said.
“This is by no means a New York City problem,” Kavanagh said. “We met with a bipartisan group of legislators on The Hill yesterday, and every one of them has had a lithium-ion battery fire in their district. The reality is if demand for cheap batteries is high and they can be purchased from overseas without any regulation or liability when they fail, these batteries will continue to enter homes all over the country with residents unaware of the deadly device they now have in their home.”
The City Council also has tried to urge the federal government act on lithium-ion battery legislation.
A resolution filed last year, 0718-2023, called on Congress to pass and the president to sign the Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act, which would promulgate consumer product safety standards with respect to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in micromobility devices.
The resolution’s only Queens co-sponsor was Julie Won (D-Long Island City). After a committee hearing was held in October 2023, the resolution was filed at the end of the legislative session.
“The time to act is now,” Kavanagh told the policymakers in DC. “We will continue to do everything in our power to keep pushing for safety around these devices on behalf of every citizen and every first responder.”
The full video of Kavanagh speaking to the U.S. Conference of Mayors is available on the FDNY’s YouTube page.
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