Canada has banned shipment of lithium metal batteries as cargo on passenger flights, following the lead of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The ICAO implemented the ban in 2014, after an investigation into two fires linked to the batteries aboard Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2013. Those fires, one in the air over Japan, the other on the ground in Boston, led to the grounding of the entire Dreamliner fleet.

Most Canadian airlines already have stopped accepting lithium metal batteries as cargo.

Canada’s prohibition comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, to comply with the ICAO ban.

Lithium metal batteries are non-rechargeable batteries used in calculators, pacemakers, hearing aids, remote car locks, and watches.

They can overheat and catch fire if kept in the wrong conditions, and there have been multiple recalls of lithium metal products.

Only batteries shipped separately as cargo are affected by the ban, not batteries already contained in or packed with equipment.

The ban does not affect travellers' personal devices such as laptops and smartphones, which usually use lithium ion batteries. 

Air carriers that service remote communities and do not operate separate cargo-only flights may be able to apply to Transport Canada for a certificate allowing them to ship lithium metal batteries, if they can demonstrate they have taken safety precautions.