UN panel agrees to ban battery shipments on airliners

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A U.N. aviation agency has voted to ban cargo shipments of rechargeable lithium batteries on passenger planes because they can create intense fires capable of destroying the aircraft.

Monday's decision by International Civil Aviation Organization's top-level governing council isn't binding, but most countries follow the agency's standards. The ban goes into effect on April 1.

Lithium-ion batteries are used in a vast array of products, including cellphones and laptops.

The batteries can self-ignite, creating fires that are hotter than 1,100 degrees. That's near the melting point of aluminum, which is used in aircraft construction.

Safety concerns increased after recent Federal Aviation Administration tests showed gases emitted by overheated batteries can build up in cargo containers, leading to explosions capable of disabling aircraft fire suppression systems.