By Sheila O’Shea
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are an increasingly popular alternative to tobacco products. They deliver nicotine through a liquid solution that is vaporized by a heating element, powered by a lithium-ion battery. While the question of whether e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes remains debatable, e-cigarettes pose another hazard—the risk of explosion.
Exploding E-Cigarette Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries contain a flammable liquid electrolyte. The material is sealed into the battery to prevent leakage, but under enough pressure, the seal can rupture. When the electrolyte heats to the boiling point, the pressure inside the battery builds until the seal is broken open. The electrolyte can then ignite, sometimes propelling the battery like a bullet.
What causes ignition of E-Cigarettes?
The most common cause of ignition is faulty or incorrect chargers. E-cigarettes use a USB charger and users often plug in a charger they already own, instead of the charger the manufacturer provides. In March 2013, Jennifer Ries plugged her e-cigarette battery into her car charger. The manufacturer materials that came with the e-cigarette stated that it could be charged with a car charger. The battery was designed to hold a charge at approximately 4.2 volts while the charger delivered a charge at 5 volts. The battery exploded in the car, inflicting second-degree burns on Ries’ legs, buttocks and hand. Only after the explosion did the manufacturer, VapCigs, advise consumers not to use car chargers to charge its e-cigarettes. Ries won a $1.9 million award in a lawsuit against VapCigs.
Another cause of e-cigarette explosions is close contact with metal objects, such as keys or coins. The metal can cause the battery to short out and ignite. In April 2016, Austin Dunn had an e-cigarette in his pocket with some loose change and the e-cigarette ignited, giving Dunn third-degree burns on his leg and hand.
Even avoiding these catalysts may not be enough to prevent injury from e-cigarettes. In November 2015, an e-cigarette manufactured by Kangertech injured Cordero Caples when it exploded as he smoked it, leaving him with a burned mouth, shattered teeth, facial fractures and a broken neck.
For many years, the e-cigarette market was largely unregulated, so no safety standards were established. While the FDA has stepped in to regulate e-cigarettes, these regulations cover the nicotine-laced liquid and not the devices themselves. The safety certification company Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has no tests for e-cigarettes at this time. Many manufacturers, eager to cash in on the growing demand for e-cigarettes, have few safety standards, if any, in place for their products.
Have you suffered from an exploding e-cigarette?
E-cigarette explosions are increasingly common occurrences and can be devastating. If you have suffered injury from an exploding e-cigarette, contact Pope McGlamry at 877-285-7656 to schedule a case review with our expert legal team.