Telecommunications equipment for field deployment generally have specified lifetimes of <100,000 hr. To achieve this high reliability, it is common practice to package sensitive components in hermetic, inert gas environments. The intent is to protect components from particulate and organic contamination, oxidation, and moisture. However, for high power density 980 nm diode lasers used in optical amplifiers, we found that hermetic, inert gas packaging induced a failure mode not observed in similar, unpackaged lasers. We refer to this failure mode as packaging-induced failure, or PIF. PIF is caused by nanomole amounts of organic contamination which interact with high intensity 980 nm light to form solid deposits over the emitting regions of the lasers. These deposits absorb 980 nm light, causing heating of the laser, narrowing of the band gap, and eventual thermal runaway. We have found PIF is averted by packaging with free °2 and/or a getter material the sequesters organics.