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Alkaline vs. Lithium Batteries: What You Need to Know

Alkaline vs. Lithium Batteries: What You Need to Know


From our smartphones to our laptops to our cars, batters are the tools that let us cut the cord and go on the move.

But more than just a mere convenience, batters also can be literal lifesavers. When the power goes out, batteries can be the source of energy that keeps important machines running and literally lets us see the light.

Batteries are also an important element of illuminated disposable medical devices, and the type of battery you use is important as well. It can mean the difference between being able to conduct a smooth successful procedure and one that involves unforeseen delays related to lighting issues. In addition, there’s the issue of post-battery use and disposal, which brings with it environmental issues that must be considered as well.

Two battery types
Of the battery types most commonly used in the medical profession, the two leading formats are alkaline and lithium. Each one comes with significant benefits and characteristics that should be considered. Let’s look at the two battery types and examine their features:

Alkaline Batteries stated an alkaline battery is a dry cell battery with a zinc anode (the positively charged end of the battery) and the cathode (the negative end) wrapped in steel case filled with zinc.

According to tech website Gizmodo, alkaline batteries are the most commonly used batteries in the world. In 2016, the two top-selling batteries in the world were alkaline batteries, accounting for a total of 66.3 percent of sales among the top 10 selling brands, according to Statistia.

Alkaline batteries come in a variety of sizes for different purposes including AAA, AA and C that are used in toys and other electronic devices, and button cell batteries that also come in different sizes and are often used in medical devices like hearing aids.

Lithium Batteries
How Stuff Works stated these batteries are often found in electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops because they can be recharged and used several times. They’re made from lithium and carbon and come in the same varieties as alkaline batteries (AAA, AA, C, button cell, etc.).

Characteristics of Alkaline vs. Lithium Batteries


  • Alkaline batteries contain no heavy metals that can pollute the soil and groundwater. In addition, they do not pose a risk of explosion in landfills.
  • Alkaline batteries are generally less expensive than lithium batteries and therefore more cost-effective to use.
  • Alkaline batteries can provide a high consistent level of energy.
  • Button alkaline batteries meet U.S. and EU battery environmental standards and are considered non-toxic by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Alkaline batteries are not considered hazardous waste and as such are not regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (Only California bans them from landfills).


  • Lithium batteries begin to degrade soon after leaving the factory. They have a general lifespan of approximately two or three years regardless of use.
  • They tend to be more expensive than alkaline.
  • When exposed to high temperatures, they will degrade faster than normal.
  • Lithium batteries have been known to burst into flames. To prevent them from exploding they must be fully discharged before disposing and cannot be incinerated. If destroyed by incineration, they can release metals into the air that can cause nausea, abdominal pain, liver and kidney damage, skin rashes, headaches and asthma.
  • Lithium batteries can release harmful chemicals into the soil if deposited in a landfill.
  • Legal requirements regarding disposal vary by state.

Batteries in a Hospital Setting
Batteries are used in many devices in hospitals, including pagers, EKG monitors, pumps, hearing aids and equipment such as the ER-SPEC/OfficeSPEC Single-Use Lighted Vaginal Speculum.

Some batteries can contain harmful metals such as the cadmium contained in lithium batteries. In their “Guide to Batteries Used in Health Care,” Practice Greenhealth stated that cadmium can be a health threat if the battery comes into contact with organic material such as bodily fluids, or if not disposed of properly.

OBP Medical devices use alkaline button batteries in their single-use illumination medical equipment that are safe to use and can be disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner. Batteries can be activated when needed and produce peak light for 30-plus minutes without emitting damaging heat. They can be easily disposed of, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.