New E-Cigarette Danger: Lithium Batteries Become Exploding Rockets

pictue of user of e-cig

E-cigarettes are hitting the news again. This time they are showing up as devices capable of exploding while in use, according to Scientific American.

As a battery-powered device that heats a nicotine liquid, the e-cigarette creates a vapor to be inhaled. But the lithium-ion battery that powers it has the potential to explode, according to Boston University researcher, Dr. Michael Siegel.

The U.S. Fire Administration examined e-cigarette explosions from 2009 to 2014 and reported 25 injuries. As an unregulated product, the total number of injuries is unknown.

A range of reasons for failures has emerged. Some of the problem comes from the lack of industry-wide manufacturing controls or testing programs, and misuse by users who modify devices or use the wrong chargers.

Similar batteries have caused fires in laptops and cell phones, but the cylinder shape of e-cigarettes makes them more likely to explode if the battery fails.  

In a lithium-ion battery, the solution can overheat, reach a boiling point, expand, catch fire and explode. When this happens in a laptop the plastic case helps to contain the explosion. But with an e-cigarette, the rocket shaped cylinder can explode in someone’s face or spiral across a room.  

Explosive Injuries

A California teen is recovering from burns after an e-cigarette exploded in his pocket. One of the two e-cigarette batteries exploded when it came into contact with his keys spiralling 15 feet down a grocery store aisle, according to CBS News.

Recently a New York teen was hospitalized with eye injuries after an e-cigarette exploded while he was testing it in a store, according to CBS News.

An electronic cigarette exploded in the face of a man in Albany, New York, leaving him with a hole in his tongue and burns on his hands, according to CNN. The explosion also knocked out several teeth.

In Tennessee, a man was paralyzed as the e-cigarette explosion fractured bones in the man’s face.

In Alabama, when an e-cigarette exploded in a young man’s face, he wound up on a ventilator with first-degree burns and a hole in the roof of his mouth, according to AOL News.

As e-cigarettes continue to hit the news, the new reports of explosions and injuries could lead to new legislation and more warnings on use and risks. For parents and communities, it raises a red flag on use and should prompt all of us to call for more investigation with possible restrictions.


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