25 May E-Cigarette Explosions
Call them what you will – electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes or ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) they are battery-operated devices designed to deliver nicotine with a variety of flavorings and other chemicals to users in vapor instead of smoke. Now a $2.2 billion industry, e–cigarette use is definitely on the rise in an expanding age spectrum. And as the numbers of users rise, so do the number of incidents from e-cigarette explosions.
E-cigarettes consist of these different parts, including: a cartridge which holds a liquid solution consisting of nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals; a heating device (vaporizer); and a power source in the form of a lithium-ion battery. In most e-cigarettes, puffing activates the battery- powered heating device. This vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge. The resulting aerosol or vapor is then inhaled (called “vaping”).
The focus of concern is on the failure of the tiny lithium-ion batteries that fuel the devices. Approximately 80 percent of all reported incidents occurred when batteries were being charged. The majority of injuries from e-cigarette explosions are caused by flame or chemical burns and blasts. “Thermal runway,” whereby internal battery overheating causes a battery fire or explosion is often the cause of these explosions. Alkali chemicals from exploded batteries can badly burn the skin. Typically these kinds of e-cigarette explosions mainly affect the face, hands, thighs, and groin.
The injuries from e-cigarette explosions can be extreme and far-reaching. The damage from chemical burns and flame require extensive wound care, even skin grafting. Blast injuries lead to tooth loss, “traumatic tattooing,” and extensive loss and damage to soft tissue. Traumatic tattooing occurs when foreign substances or particles get buried in several layers of skin as a result of trauma.
Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths in the United States each year. Cancer and heart disease, the two worst consequences associated with smoking are caused from the inhalation of tar and other chemicals produced by tobacco combustion. E-cigarettes are designed to simulate the act of tobacco smoking by producing a flavored aerosol that looks and feels like tobacco smoke. They still do deliver nicotine, but without burning tobacco, which is what produces the toxins in regular smoke. For this reason, many contend that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional tobacco products. However, it is important to note that e-cigarettes do still contain nicotine, a highly addictive drug. In addition, testing of many e-cigarette products found the vapor to contain harmful carcinogens and chemicals. The current data on the safety of e-cigarettes is inconclusive.
Until recently, this relatively new industry has gone unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2016, FDA extended regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products, including ENDS, however the prospects for battery regulation still remain unclear. Until all vapes and vape batteries conform to strong and consistent safety standards, the onus is on e-cigarette users to educate and protect themselves on the risks of e-cigarette explosions.
Tips to Help Avoid Battery Explosions from E-Cigarettes:
- Use only vape devices with safety features such as firing button locks, vent holes, and protection against overcharging
- Keep loose batteries in a case to prevent contact with metal objects. Don’t let batteries come in contact with coins, keys or other metals in your pocket
- Always use the charger that came with your vape device. Never charge your vape device with a phone or tablet charger
- Don’t charge your vape device overnight or leave it charging unattended
- Replace the batteries if they get damaged or wet. If the batteries are not replaceable, contact the manufacturer.
Other proactive steps you can take to protect yourself include:
- Read and understand the manufacturer’s recommendations for the use and care of your device. Contact the manufacturer with any questions you may have
- Never remove or disable safety feature like fire button locks or vent holes. These are designed to prevent overheating and explosions
- Use only batteries recommended for your device. Don’t mix different brands of batteries together, or use batteries with different charge levels. Finally, don’t combine old and new batteries together
- Charge your vape in plain sight on a flat clean surface away from anything that can easily catch fire. Never charge it on a couch or a pillow where it is prone to overheat or get turned on accidentally
- Protect your vape from extreme temperatures. Do not leave it in direct sunlight, or in freezing cold temperatures
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