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The Dangers of Exploding E-Cigarette Batteries

The McClellan Law Firm

Ever since e-cigarettes were introduced to the United States in 2007, they’ve taken the nation by storm. In just under a decade, they’ve grown into an approximately $1.5 billion industry with about 2.5 million customers. While those figures pale in comparison to the number of tobacco smokers in this country – an estimated 36.5 million people are considered smokers by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – their growth stands contrary to the decline in the more traditional industry. The CDC reports that between 2005 and 2015, the total number of smokers dropped from almost 21 percent of people in the United States to just over 15 percent. Some of this can be attributed to e-cigarettes’ market pitch as a safer, healthier alternative to regular cigarettes. Unfortunately, that idea of being a “safer” product carries less weight the more one looks into the regulations surrounding the industry.

Up until August 8, 2016, those regulations were borderline nonexistent. Since 2009, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only regulated roll-your-own tobacco, smokeless cigarettes and traditional cigarettes. As important as this new regulation is to protecting the health and safety of Americans, especially those under the age of 18, it was more targeted towards answering growing concerns over the astronomic rise of e-cigarette use among high schoolers. The FDA reported that there was an over 900 percent increase in use among people in that age group between 2011 and 2015. However, the newly expanded e-cigarette regulations don’t answer another, more immediately dangerous concern over these newer products.

E-Cigarette Batteries Can Explode

This issue has become so widespread that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) compiled a report of 25 separate incidents of e-cigarettes exploding between 2009 and 2014. According to their findings, 10 people were injured in these incidents, and 80 percent of the explosions occurred when the batteries were being charged.

The industry still lacks any reasonable, independent testing for these products, which puts consumers at risk every time they choose to use or charge an e-cigarette. A key issue is that there is no guarantee that the circuitry that keeps the heating elements in the lithium-ion batteries functioning properly will work as advertised, possibly leading to catastrophic failures.

“Virtually no testing of the batteries is performed, and there are many dangerous replicas being sold as originals,” commended Craig McClellan of The McClellan Law Firm. “The market is not policed, and not governed by any regulations. My understanding is that new regulations have been proposed, but are being fought by the industry. Thus, lawsuits, unfortunately, appear to be the only vehicle to obtain reform and safety.”

The specific details about how these batteries tend to explode can be found in FEMA’s full report, but it is important to note that they tend to blow up differently than other types of consumer products due to the way that they are designed. Because the batteries are encased in a cylindrical device, the ends of the casing are the weakest points. When the battery seal ruptures, pressure can build up instantaneously and cause it to fail, rocketing either the container or the battery across the room.

FEMA believes that the 25 cases they studied only make up a portion of the total number of incidents that took place between 2009 and 2014, though it is impossible to tell the exact number when these incidents aren’t reported to fire departments or media outlets. Using the information available, they came up with six points:

  • Two of the incidents resulted in serious burn injuries.
  • No one has died from an e-cigarette explosion according to available reports.
  • One of the explosions took place while the e-cigarette was being transported on a cargo plane.
  • Twenty explosions occurred while the battery was being charged.
  • Two explosions while the e-cigarette was in use.
  • Two explosions were unclear about whether they were being charged or in use.

Many of these explosions set fire to nearby objects like carpets, couches, drapes, bedding, seats, etc. The FEMA report broke down the severity of the fires and the frequency at which they occurred. Such resulting fires can cause further injuries and deaths.

The McClellan Law Firm is currently handling a case where our client was severely burned and disfigured after an e-cigarette exploded. If you or a loved one was seriously injured by an exploding e-cigarette, contact our firm to discuss your case with one of our San Diego personal injury attorneys. We have provided experienced and knowledgeable legal assistance to clients for more than 25 years, and are committed to fighting for each new client who walks through our doors. Give us a call at (619) 215-1488, or fill out our online form to request a free consultation today.