Some e-cigarette users are seeing their devices go up in smoke. Many of us saw the video of Josh Hamilton who had an e-cigarette explode in his right thigh pocket and is now recovering from severe 2nd degree burns on his right thigh The Owensboro, Kentucky, resident was paying for snacks at his local Shell gas station when flames shot out from his leg through his clothes. CNN reported that last October, Evan Spahlinger of Naples, Florida wound up in an intensive care unit and underwent surgery after an e-cigarette exploded, burning his face, neck, hands and lungs. The fire department was investigating if the lithium battery inside the vaping device was to blame. In 2013, Kinzie Barlow told CNN that she was charging her e-cigarette when it suddenly exploded and burned her 3-year old son, Khonor. He suffered first- and second-degree burns. Another news agency backs up CNN reports, a hospital in Seattle finds that e-cigarette injuries used to be a rare occurrence, but now it is seeing at least one patient a month from e-cigarette-related injuries, according to local media. The increasing frequency of these explosions has led the Transportation Department to ban the devices from checked baggage in airlines and has renewed calls for federal regulation of the industry.
Why the increase in explosions?
E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular among teenagers and tobacco smokers trying to quit. One in four high-school students reported having used an e-cigarette in 2014, with one in eight saying they had smoked one in the last 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. E-cigarette sales were expected to hit $1.5 billion in 2015, according to Wells Fargo, with the market for vaporizing products — which includes e-cigarettes — reaching $10 billion by the end of 2018.
Like hoverboards, e-cigarettes are powered by a lithium ion battery, which contains electrolytes that can combust when overheated. These batteries are also present in cellphones and laptops, and there have been rare incidents when these devices have overheated and caught fire. However, because of the cylindrical shape of e-cigarettes, either the battery, the device itself or both are propelled when the battery overheats, causing an explosion and increasing the likelihood for the fire to spread, according to a 2014 report by the U.S. Fire Administration.
The agency examined 25 media reports of exploding e-cigarettes between 2009 and 2014: 80% of the incidents occurred while the device was charging and two exploded while in the user’s mouth, causing serious injury.
Use the charger intended for the e-cigarette
According to FEMA, 80% of e-cigarette explosions happen during charging. The cause is often linked to the use of an alternative charger, one that was not sold with the battery that was charging. What this means is that the majority of the damage caused by e-cigarette malfunction.
Do not put them in your pocket
Consumers should not to put these products in their pockets because coins can short-circuit the lithium-ion battery when they rub against the device. Also, do not carry batteries in your pocket.
There needs to be warnings for consumers and regulations
Public opinion appears to support the FDA. Nearly 60% of 3,000 Americans surveyed said e-cigarettes should be regulated like tobacco products, according to an NPR poll released in December. The FDA has previously found that e-cigarettes vary widely in reliability and quality, and didn’t always do what they said on the package.
One of the associations that represent e-cigarette manufacturers has recommended a warning for their members to place on device packaging that tells consumers to not modify the devices or any associated hardware; not use batteries, power cords or chargers not sold with the devices; and not “carry batteries in your pocket or allow batteries to come into contact with any metallic object. Doing any of the preceding may cause the user serious or deadly injury.
What you can do to protect yourself if you use e-cigarettes:
1) Always know your brand and avoid counterfeits. Buy from a reputable source, read reviews and ask those in the know for advice if you need to. If in doubt, just stick with an American brand. The manufacturing standards in the USA are superior to China, where the majority of these devices come from, making your Made in the US items safer in general and less likely to malfunction.
2) Only charge with the charger and power adapter that comes with the battery.
3) Do not plug into computers, or other USB-capable devices.
4) Find a device that has a battery you remove from the atomizer to charge, these appear to be safer than the models that stay attached when charging.
5) Never overcharge your battery. Do not leave it plugged in unattended, when you are asleep or away from the home.