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Electronics/Danger from old lithium batteries

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Question
Hi, would you kindly shed some light on what possible dangers there could be from old batteries?  I have stored cameras, recorders, etc. etc. with batteries in them for years--ignorant of the consequences--until I found 4 different items with thick white gunk ruining them, from leaking alkaline batteries.   Now, I know old alkaline batteries can leak!  But what about lithium?  I stupidly stored a 13-plus-years-old 35mm camera in the top shelf of my closet--for over a decade with battery in.  I don't know what kind of battery--probably a lithium of some kind--maybe a CR123A?  (I took the camera promptly for waste disposal.)  But, the problem is, I found little white flecks all over the body of the camera.  It could be mold, but then again, I worry it could be lithium that leaked out.  I am losing sleep worrying about lithium poisoning all over my closet.  Would you please explain what lithium looks like when it leaks?  HOw dangerous it could be?  And how to clean it up?  Thank you so very much!
 Kate

Answer
Complex question with complex range of answers. Storage, shelf life and in-situe life are all different.  Storage temperature is an important matter also.

But, perhaps the charts on this pdf may give you some idea of how long lasting various batteries may be.

http://www.microbattery.com/pdf/energizer-battery-shelf-life.pdf

When installed in a product the life is much shorter because of the drainage being greater and causing more chemical reaction to take place.

There are many informative sites if you do some googling around.  

Electronics

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Expertise

Electronics questions about AC, DC and digital theory.

Experience

Graduate electrical engineer with over 40 years in electronic design, manufacturing, project organization and patent review. Experience in fields of industrial and consumer electronics (audio, video, acoustics, etc.)

Organizations
IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers); Senior Life member AES (Audio Engineering Society), Fellow Life member

Education/Credentials
BSEE University of North Dakota

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