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Japan Investigates Sparking Apple iPod

The problem is believed to stem from a flaw in the iPod Nano's lithium-ion battery.
Japanese government officials are investigating a possible defect that caused an Apple iPod to shoot out sparks while it was being recharged, it was reported Wednesday.

An official with the country's trade and economy ministry told the Associated Press that the incident, which occurred in January in Kanagawa Prefecture southwest of Tokyo, is believed to stem from a flaw in the iPod Nano's lithium-ion battery. Apple reported the problem to the ministry in March.

No one was injured by the sparks, which the ministry is categorizing as a fire. Apple has been ordered to find out the cause and then report back to the government.

Apple was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

The defective iPod's model number was MA099J/A, the AP reported. The ministry said about 425,000 iPods with that corresponding number were shipped into Japan between September 2005 and September 2006.

Japan is not the first to report problems with the iPod Nano. Last October, a resident of Douglasville, Ga., claimed that his Nano caught fire in his pocket. The man wasn't injured.

Defects in lithium-ion batteries have caused notebooks to shoot sparks and sometimes burst into flames. In January, the U.S. Transportation Department said airline passengers could no longer pack loose lithium-ion batteries in checked luggage.

Instead, passengers are required to take loose batteries with them in carry-on baggage, packed in plastic bags. The regulation did not apply to batteries installed in electronic devices, such as laptops, mobile phones and cameras.

In 2006, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Apple issued a recall of lithium-ion batteries made by Sony for certain iBook G4 and PowerBook G4 notebook computers. The recall was based on nine reports of batteries overheating, two of which involved minor burns. Other recalls of the Sony batteries were issued by Dell, Lenovo, Gateway, Acer America, and Toshiba. The problems prompted a massive recall by Sony.

Sony, however, hasn't been alone in dealing with defective batteries. In August 2007, Finnish phone maker Nokia recalled some 300 million batteries made by Matsushita between December 2005 and November 2006. Last December, Sanyo recalled 1.3 million mobile phone handset batteries for safety reasons.