A new medical study analyzing emergency room data indicates injuries associated with e-cigarette fires and explosions are on the rise in the U.S.
The study, conducted by researchers from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and the University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Dermatology, found there were more than 2,000 reports of burn injuries over a two-year period as a result of using e-cigarettes. The results were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
With the number of e-cigarette explosions and fires surging, dermatologists should be more alert to e-cigarette use when assessing patients with oral lesions, contact dermatitis, and burn injuries, the study’s researchers advise. They describe the various skin injuries caused by e-cigarettes as “side effects associated with this rapidly developing public health epidemic.”
E-cigarettes and the powerful lithium-ion batteries that power them pose a unique threat. E-cigarette explosions, which are often called “thermal runaways” in scientific literature, emit flames that burn at temperatures of about 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit/1,000 degrees Celsius. As the lithium battery burns, it releases highly flammable and toxic gases, making them able to burn for long periods of time and with a force that can make them difficult to extinguish.
E-cigs are different from other electronic consumer devices because of their cylindrical design, with the weakest structural points at the ends. Should the lithium battery seal rupture or overheat, the pressure within the cylinder builds quickly until it ruptures, usually at the battery end.
“As a result of the battery and container failure, one or the other, or both, can be propelled across the room like a bullet or small rocket,” the U.S. Fire Administration observed in a July 2017 e-cigarette report.
What causes an e-cigarette battery to explode?
Cleveland Clinic’s Baruch Fertel, M.D. did not take part in the study, but he’s familiar enough with electronic cigarette explosions to know that they can be caused by a variety of factors.
“We’ve seen cases of people keeping an electronic cigarette in their shirt pocket, and it hitting a coin, or their keys, causing a short circuit, and causing a fire,” Dr. Fertel said, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
He also warns people not to charge e-cigarettes for a long period of time or overnight. Doing so can cause the devices to become dangerously hot.
He also says that mismatching batteries and e-cigarettes can cause them to overheat and explode.
A lot of people are also injured in e-cigarette blasts when they try to construct their own device or use a battery from a leftover device to power an e-cigarette.
And of course, any e-cigarette battery that becomes wet or damaged is prone to malfunction. Dr. Fertel advises people to throw the damaged battery away.
We are currently investigating cases involving severe injuries caused by exploding e-cigarette devices and exploding e-cigarette batteries. These explosions have been linked to faulty e-cigarette products, defective lithium-ion batteries, and insufficient warnings for users. With few regulations to ensure their safety, e-cigarette devices have been aggressively marketed and sold in stores throughout the United States. Contact William Sutton in our Toxic Torts Section to discuss your claim.