The US Department of Transportation has announced new safety rules relating to the storage of rechargeable Lithium batteries when flying to, from and within the USA.

The new restrictions are effective now.

They dictate that loose Lithium cells may not be packed in checked baggage under any circumstances but batteries installed in equipment are allowed.

Common consumer electronics such as travel cameras, mobile phones, and most laptop computers are still allowed in carry-on and checked luggage.

The rules stipulate that carry-on baggage can contain up to two batteries, however, this is only if there is no possibility of short-circuit, so batteries must be packed individually within a plastic bag or their original packaging.

In a press release explaining the move, US authorities say: "Lithium batteries are considered hazardous materials because they can overheat and ignite in certain conditions. Safety testing conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration found that current aircraft cargo fire suppression system would not be capable of suppressing a fire if a shipment of non-rechargeable lithium batteries were ignited in flight."

"This rule protects the passenger," continued Lynne Osmus, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assistant administrator for security and hazardous materials. "It's one more step for safety. It's the right thing to do and the right time to do it."