I had a very scary situation last night. I want to post it here so that fellow CPF´rs will avoid it and the dangerous potential it has.
I have been savoring of my soon to arrive SF M6. Knowing of the high current demand, I have been all over Newbie´s, Silverfox´s and LunarModule´s threads to learn as much as possible about batteries and avoid dangerous pitfalls. It makes me angry that I was so stupid so as to have this happen to me after all this research to avoid this very thing. Nonetheless, it happened and I´d like to tell all about it.
Last night, at around 9 PM., I was unpacking a new shipment of Sanyo made in China CR 123 primary Lithium batteries, 20 of them to be exact, that came neatly packed in plastic sealed bags. They all looked good to me, as I would test them soon with my new ZTS tester before use. Then, accidentally, I dropped one of them from about 4 feet. The impact is what I would consider mild and I was not alarmed, nonetheless, a strange but non- repulsive smell was felt. I looked at the battery, and out of instinct and without much thought picked it up, pulled the positive end with the vent holes up close to my nose and inhaled to see if the battery was venting!! (how stupid could I have been!!, after all the research to avoid this very thing) AAGGHH!! I immediately placed the battery outside and swore this would be one battery I would not be using in the flashlight. I did this too because, after all, maybe only a battery explosion would be dangerous right ?? I forgot about the incident and headed upstairs to watch a movie on TV.
Then, about 20 minutes later, it hit me. Surprisingly and out of the blue, I started coughing violently, felt a severe shortness of breath along with chest pain. My arms and legs started to weaken on me and go "cold". A rush of panic set on me and I immediately linked the episode to a reaction of the inhalation of vapors from the dropped battery.
I woke up the wife and my 18 year old son, and briefed her on what was happening to me and where I thought it was coming from. We agreed to review LunarModule´s accident and do research on the internet on what to do. We also agreed to take an immediate drive to the emergency room at the hospital if the episode was to repeat itself or if there was any indication of a worsening of the situation. The episode itself was momentary, possibly around 20-30 seconds. We pullled an MSDS sheet here
and pm´d a fellow CPF´r whom I hold in high regard for his experience and knowledge for guidance. Unfortunately, he was unavailable. OH wait, here it comes again!! another episode, this time though without the chest pain and not as severe as the first one. We rushed to the hospital, wife driving me, and into the emergency room and to the doctor. We explained what had happened, and surprisingly the doctor was well versed in this type of poisonous inhalation. He could relate to all the symptoms, and concluded I had inhaled dangerous Hydrofluoric acid vapor. The delayed reaction, he said, was due to the bloodstream absorbing the vapor and hence the shortness of breath, chest pain,and weak limbs. A third episode took place while in the emergency room but this time it was much less than the first or second episodes. It has been about 14 hours since this incident, I did not get much sleep last night but not because I felt bad, only very scared.
Hydrofluoric acid will, with a possible delayed effect, affect the nervous system, respiratory tract, lungs, and impair the cardiovascular system. Those effects are from inhalation only, more severe effects including weakening of the bones and a host of other things if ingested or from wounds such as LunarModules. i.e. skin contact.
WHAT I LEARNED AND MY DOCTOR SAID TO ME:
1) DO NOT DELAY a trip to the emergency room in the hospital if you have inhaled, ingested, or came into skin contact with Lithium battery venting.
2) Have someone else drive you to the hospital if possible. You could become quickly and without warning completely impaired. Oxygen and emergency treatment by qualified personel are your only chances of survival after cardiac arrest or if you are unable to breathe.
3) DO NOT ASSUME you are OK if you as much as think you´ve been exposed to battery fumes, EVEN IF the battery seems to be OK and explosions are not a requisite.
4) Keep handy antidote in the form of calcium gluconate saline solution for inhalation or in gel form for skin cuts or burns. Intravenous solutions are a possibility and must be administered by hospital personnel.
This incident was very mild compared to other cases, but I assure you fellow CPF´rs, it is very scary and dangerous. A battery can start to vent if mishandled or dropped as in my case, it does not have to explode. It happened to a name brand chinese made CR123, it does not have to be a "cheap battery", this one cost me $2.00 a piece.
Don´t ever pull the vent holes in the positive end of the battery up close to your face or nose like I very stupidly did. If you suspect a battery is venting, just toss it aside.
Hopefully somebody else will benefit from this post.