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Caution - danger of explosion!

26/2002, 30.10.2002

Medical Notifications of Poisonings confirm major risk linked to the handling of starter batteries

Who hasn't experienced this! Winter has only just set in and the car battery fails when you switch on the engine first thing in the morning. A jump start is needed; the car battery has to be recharged or even replaced. Consumers are doing this more and more frequently themselves instead of getting it done in the garage. As demonstrated by the Medical Notifications of Poisonings (pursuant to § 16e Chemicals Act), handling starter batteries is by no means without risk for the consumer and even experts are taking a chance when they handle batteries too carelessly.

In 2001 alone, 175 accidents involving starter batteries were notified to the Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine, mainly by employers' liability insurance associations. Mostly, they involved gas deflagrations or explosions in which acid leaked out of the batteries and caused burns to the eyes and/or face. Even if the notifications did not always contain all the details of the course of the accidents, it was possible to identify three frequent causes of accidents:

  • Electrical short circuits when inserting or removing batteries,
  • Sparking during recharging or when pushing batteries over carpets and
  • Major jerks during transport when the batteries - obviously because of their heavy weight - are put down roughly or dropped.

BgVV, therefore, advises all consumers to exercise considerable caution when recharging or replacing batteries, to use the right tools in sufficiently ventilated spaces or to go to a garage. Protective goggles and clothing should always be worn when handling car batteries. Batteries must not be reinserted into a vehicle immediately after recharging as sufficient time must be allowed for gas purging. Many manufacturers offer informative leaflets on how to avoid explosions with starter batteries. Recently manufactured batteries normally carry informative, accident prevention pictograms which really should be complied with.

If, however, an accident does occur, then the following steps should be taken immediately:

  • In the case of burns to the eyes, the affected eye should be rinsed for at least 15 minutes with plenty of clear water. Then immediately consult an ophthalmologist!
  • Burns to the skin should also be rinsed with plenty of water and a physician then consulted.

The recently published brochure "Medical Notifications of Poisonings 2001" describes health impairments caused by "exploding batteries" and other cases of poisonings notified by the attending physicians and the poison control centres of the federal states to the BgVV in 2001. The brochure is available free of charge. It can be ordered from the BgVV in writing, by mail or fax. It can also be downloaded as a PDF file from the Institute's homepage ( Under "Publications/Brochures" you will be able to access all the annual reports of the Central Registration Body for Poisonings since 1995.


Publications - Broschüren

Date Title Size
Ärztliche Mitteilungen bei Vergiftungen 2001 360.1 KB


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