If you’re in the hazmat business, you’re no stranger to Publication 52 from the United States Postal Service. Affectionately referred to as “Pub 52,” this public document (a.k.a. “Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail“) outlines the do’s and don’ts for the safe transport of Dangerous Goods via the U.S. mail.
One of the thorniest topics in Pub 52 is lithium batteries. As more new e-commerce companies depend on cheap, efficient, rechargeable battery power, transport of lithium batteries by mail will only grow.
Not surprisingly, shipping lithium batteries by mail is even more complicated than shipping them by other means. We recently posted a complete guide to shipping lithium batteries via the USPS based on the most recent update of Pub 52 from June 2018.
If you don’t have time to digest that whole page, here are your three key takeaways.
#1: Yes, you can ship lithium batteries via USPS. However …
There are currently six types of lithium batteries eligible for shipment, in varying domestic or international quantities, via USPS:
- Lithium-ion (rechargeable) battery, UN3480
- Lithium metal battery, UN3090
- Lithium-ion (rechargeable) battery contained in equipment, UN3481
- Lithium-ion (rechargeable) battery packed with equipment, UN3481
- Lithium metal (or lithium alloy) battery contained in equipment, UN3091
- Lithium metal (or lithium alloy) battery packed with equipment, UN3091
Don’t forget the new lithium battery marks that became mandatory this year!
However—you knew that was coming, right?—you cannot ship fully regulated or the damaged or recalled versions of these batteries via U.S. mail. Here’s another way to think of it: If the batteries you want to mail require a Class 9 hazard label, per 49 CFR 173.185(c) requirements, they’re a no-go with USPS.
#2: Do your homework on packaging
As every hazmat pro knows, eligible and compliant are two entirely separate things. Your batteries might be eligible for shipping via U.S. mail, but you need the right battery packaging to make those shipments compliant.
You must follow USPS Packaging Instructions 9D strictly to prevent batteries from short-circuiting, overheating or catching fire. Your outer packaging doesn’t have to be UN Specification, but it does need to be a strong, sealed and cushioned package to prevent movement.
International packaging requirements require solid, rigid packaging (to prevent crushing or exposure) that’s adequately sized to see the lithium battery mark (plus applicable telephone number) without folding. International shipments in padded and poly bags are only allowed with button cell batteries under a very specific set of circumstances.
#3: Harmony only exists in boy band songs
Getting USPS lithium battery shipping requirements to live in complete harmony with all other intermodal carriers and jurisdictions is umm, well … as easy as trying to sing all the parts of a Jonas Brothers song at the same time. (Ask your kids.)
When it comes to harmonization, PHMSA and international organizations such as ICAO and IMO have made great strides to synchronize their regulations, but the U.S. Postal Service isn’t quite there yet. Ensuring you’ve met all the end-to-end mail and shipping restrictions requires extra diligence.
Here’s the bottom line: Even with the current, complex restrictions, the reduced shipping costs and recordkeeping provisions of mailing lithium batteries can make the USPS a smart and viable option. Now quit humming “A Little Bit Longer” and get back to work!
For more details about shipping lithium batteries by mail, visit our page on USPS Publication 52: What You Need to Know Before Mailing Lithium Batteries, or call us at 800.621.5808.
I’m in uk and want to send, via Amazon maybe, a rechargeable lithium battery hand warmer and am being frustrated all round ! Any advice please ?
Hi Sara, thanks for your question, and we are sorry for your frustration. We get it! Give us a call at +1 773-478-0900 and ask for the regulations hotline.
are there added charges when shipping lithium batteries? I ship through Ebay so when things require extra fees USPS charges my customer so I’d like to know in advance please?
Hi Harry, sorry, but we don’t have insight into carrier pricing and any surcharges for batteries. Your best bet is to contact the carrier for guidance.
Hope you are well
Do you transport a laptop battery from Ireland to South Africa?
Labelmaster does no ship batteries, we help customers ship them compliantly. If you have a specific question on how to ship them, please give our regs team a call 800.621.5808.
The LM team
I am just trying to ship a LED Name Badge with a tiny rechargeable lithium battery domestic in the USA– what kind of hoops do I have to jump thru?
Hi Shawna, thanks for your question! Shipping lithium batteries is governed by US 49 CFR 173.185. See paragraph (c) for shipping excepted batteries. Depending on the specific circumstances, the hoops could range from “almost nothing” to “relatively significant.”
Thank you, Labelmaster
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How about lithium button batteries , 3 volt? Can they go by air (Priority Mail) if two are in the manufacturer packing and two are in a light string? That’s a total of 4 lithium button 3 volt batteries. It seems harmless enough, but I don’t want to wind up with a fine or being responsible for some terrible calamity.
It really seems like it would probably be fine. After all, people (1) do not read, so a lot of people would not even realize they’re shipping lithium batteries; (2) human beings are notorious for lying (eg, dogs don’t lie, but people do!). I’m guessing plenty of these batteries do get mailed.
I know I need to tell the postal employee at the post office, but was curious. Maybe I need to open that box and just ship this gift without batteries (order via amazon to ship to the recipient instead).
Lithium metal button cells cannot be shipped by air via the USPS; they must be shipped surface transportation only. Of course, shipping the item without batteries is another safe option!
We have lithium polymer battery (power bank) this will only ship domestic US ground. Do I need label ID for hazardous/ dangerous goods?
Hi, Power banks are considered stand alone batteries and will be either fully regulated or regulated under the excepted status. Either way, some sort of marking and labeling will be need in most circumstances. See 49 CFR 173.185 for guidance.
Hello, I’m shipping LED light up coasters with 2 CR1220 button batteries inside. Non-Rechargeable Button Cell batteries, I think. Do I need to have any markings or labels on the box? Do i need to check yes for hazardous material at post office? Thanks!
Hi Kim, Various conditions may apply. See USPS packing instructions 9D for specific guidance:
All the best,
I had amazon ship me Anker chargers, box is labeled UN3480 and label addressed to me says do not ship via passenger aircraft. Can I ship them USPS or UPS ground?
Yes, depending on the specific situation. See USPS Pub 52 Packing Instruction 9D:
Hope that helps,