E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid into a vapor (often containing nicotine) so it can be inhaled, supposedly a safer alternative to inhaling the smoke from burning tobacco in a cigarette. Though the e-cigarette industry claims such vapors are safe, the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power the devices apparently are not.
There are numerous reports of burning or exploding e-cigarettes or their batteries, which caused property damage and injuries.
- The kitchen of an Egg Harbor home was damaged by an exploding e-cigarette last year, according to the Press of Atlantic City. The owner used a cell phone charger, not the battery charger for the e-cigarette, which over-heated the batteries. The owner said the chargers look the same and both use USB ports so they both fit onto the e-cigarette. But the cell phone charger emits more current than the e-cig batteries are designed to handle.
- An e-cigarette with the wrong battery exploded while it was being handled by a 14-year-old boy in a vape shop in Brooklyn in April, leaving him blind in one eye and suffering burns, according to the New York Daily News. A shop clerk violated New York City and state law by allowing the boy and his friends to use them. Only those 21 and older are permitted to buy them.
- Ramona, California, firefighters responded to a call at a liquor store last year after an e-cigarette exploded, burning an employee who was using it and damaging the store. Fox 5 reports parts of the e-cigarette cut the man’s face and shattered a glass display inside the store. The employee was taken to the University of California San Diego Medical Center burn unit and was initially listed in critical condition.
The U.S. Fire Administration states that what’s causing multiple fires and explosions of e-cigarettes are their batteries. Here’s why:
- E-cigarettes are powered by cylindrical, lithium-ion batteries which are made by winding together layers of metallic anode and cathode material separated by a film. The film holds a liquid electrolyte.
- This core is placed in a cylindrical metal can through an open end. The can is sealed so that the liquid electrolyte cannot escape or evaporate.
- All of the electrolytes currently used in lithium-ion batteries are either flammable or combustible. This electrolyte causes the fire and explosion when the lithium-ion battery overheats.
- During an explosion or fire, the electrolyte is heated to its boiling point, the internal pressure in the battery builds, the seal at the end of the battery breaks and the pressure is quickly released.
- The electrolyte then normally ignites. Expanding gas from the rapid combustion further increases the pressure. The fire is fueled briefly after the initial ignition by the plastic separator film.
Battery failure can be due to a defect or improper recharging, or a combination of the two. Because of the risk of fire and explosion, e-cigarettes are banned on commercial flights in the U.S., according to USA Today. If you want to see what an exploding e-cigarette looks like, you can take a look at this video recording.
If you or a family member has been injured or suffered property damage in New Jersey because of a defective e-cigarette or its batteries, call the Law Offices of James C. DeZao at (973) 358-6134 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the incident, how the law may apply and how you may be able to collect compensation for your injuries or property damage.