China claims Motorola, Nokia batteries explode

Chinese authorities say batteries may blow up when used in Motorola and Nokia cell phones

As investigations continued into the death a 22-year-old Chinese man whose cell phone exploded, Chinese authorities have found batteries that may blow up when used in Motorola and Nokia cell phones, news reports said Friday.

Government regulators in the southern province of Guangdong said this week that they had discovered unsafe Motorola and Nokia mobile phone batteries that could explode under certain conditions, the New York Times, Bloomberg, and the Chicago Tribune reported. Both handset manufacturers have said they are cooperating with the safety investigation, but claimed that the batteries fingered by authorities were unauthorized copycats.

The news adds a turn to the ongoing investigation of the June 19 death of Xiao Jinpeng, a 22-year-old welder who died after the battery in his handset apparently exploded. However, neither Motorola or provincial law enforcement has confirmed that the phone, reported as made by Illinois-based Motorola, was actually a company-branded handset. Details of Xiao's death were first published July 4 by the Lanzhou Morning Post, which in turn quoted the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

A Motorola spokesman downplayed the phone connection. "Preliminary evidence suggests it is highly unlikely that a cell phone caused this accident," Yang Boning, a Beijing press officer for Motorola, told the Morning Post. "We are working with the Chinese authorities to determine and investigate the root cause."

According to the New York Times, Chinese investigators are not sure if any of the dangerous counterfeit cell phone batteries have been exported, or if they were only sold domestically.

The cell phone battery safety issue is only the most recent problem to face Chinese-made products. In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would block imports of some Chinese seafood because of contaminants. Three months prior, the deaths of hundreds of American pets was blamed on melamine, a dangerous chemical that had been added to wheat flour supplied to pet food makers by Chinese companies.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
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