Beginning May 16th, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is banning all international shipments with lithium ion batteries, including many electronics. If you've got a friend or relative who's been nagging you to send them a new iPad, you may want to do it before next week.
The concern is that lithium ion batteries, under the right conditions, can supposedly explode or catch fire -- causing a massive catastrophe 30,000 feet in the air. In fact, lithium ion batteries are being blamed for "at least two fatal cargo plane crashes since 2006, including a UPS jet in Dubai," according to Fast Company, the outlet that first reported on the story.
U.S. soldiers in particular will probably be affected the most, since other shipping alternatives like UPS, DHL and FedEx are more expensive and can't deliver to Army Post Office and Fleet Post Office mailboxes. The only way, then, to get a gadget stuffed with lithium batteries to an active soldier would be to mail it to a civilian address -- which would boost prices sky high.
The USPS says they may reconsider the ban by January 1, 2013, when they expect the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Universal Postal Union and the Postal Service to have figured out how to safely transport limited quantities of lithium, as well as what packaging or installation procedures are necessary in order to lower risks. But until then, you might want to start formulating your gadget shipment plan for people you know overseas, unless you want to get stuck using private delivery firms.