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Overheating Batteries Lead to HP Laptop Recall

Hewlett-Packard Co. is recalling 54,000 lithium-ion batteries used in its Pavilion and Compaq laptops due to the risk of overheating, and a potential fire hazard.

Since a prior May 2009 recall of 70,000 units, HP reported that it has received 38 reports of batteries that overheated and ruptured, resulting in 11 instances of minor personal injury and 31 cases of minor property damage.

In a May 19 announcement about the voluntary recall and replacement program, HP indicated that customers are eligible to receive a replacement battery pack for each verified, recalled battery pack at no cost.

HP and the Consumer Product Safety Commission both recommended that customers who own the affected laptops should remove the batteries immediately.

"We are taking this action as part of our commitment to provide the highest quality of service to our notebook customers," HP's announcement stated. "We are proactively notifying you of this issue and are prepared to replace all verified battery packs."

The recall pertains to battery packs shipped with certain models of HP Pavilion, HP Compaq and Compaq Presario notebooks that were manufactured between August 2007 and May 2008. Product numbers are listed on HP's Web site here. HP indicated in its announcement that fewer than three percent of the notebook PC products manufactured in this timeframe contained battery packs that are affected.

The computers, which cost between cost between $500 and $3,000, were sold both through electronic retailers and HP outlets between August 2007 and July 2008. The battery packs also were sold separately for between $100 and $160.

Battery recalls are not uncommon. In 2006, Sony recalled a massive number of lithium-ion batteries that were believed to be defective and sold to computer makers, including Apple (recalled 1.8 million batteries worldwide), Dell (4.1 million recalled), Lenovo and HP.

The BBC reported that researchers at Cambridge University have identified the cause of lithium-ion batteries overheating and catching fire. In short, metal fibers in the batteries are the key, as they can cause short circuits, resulting in the battery rapidly overheating -- and potentially catching fire.

About the Author

Natasha Watkins is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in technology and business topics.

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