As our dependence on mobile electronics continues to grow, so does our need for portable power options. This has led to some exciting advances in battery technology but has also shown us what can go wrong when these batteries malfunction.
Reports of overheating and swelling laptop batteries were just the start. One need only recall a couple of months back (and a few million dollars in stock value) to the overheating and exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone debacle; a scandal which would eventually expand to include the phones meant to replace those that were already known to be defective.
Smoking has even taken on a battery-powered aspect as the electronic cigarette market, or vaping, has rapidly grown into a $10 billion industry. Touted as a “healthier” alternative to smoking, the devices provide a method for nicotine delivery that does not involve the combustion of plant material. Instead, vaping involves the heating of nicotine-infused liquids by battery-powered devices.
As a new industry, the devices used for vaping are largely unregulated. And, as one can imagine, this lack of oversight has left the door open to a number of different brands and technologies – all with varying degrees of quality control. Reports have already surfaced of exploding and overheating e-cigarette batteries. As consumers, we’re quick to dismiss these faults as nothing but a simple mechanical malfunction. The device became a little warmer than usual. Maybe there was a spark which caused a bit of smoke or an electrical smell.
However, the realities of these malfunctions are far more graphic and dangerous. And the victims are starting to fight back.
Such is the case of four plaintiffs in New Jersey who have filed lawsuits against the shops that sold them their e-cigarettes and vaporizers, as well as the companies that made the devices and their batteries. Their injuries are startling.
One incident resulted in third-degree burns to 20 percent of the victim’s body. He will require skin grafts after the battery in his e-cigarette exploded and set his leg on fire.
Another resulted in third-degree burns when the exploding battery “caused a scathing hot mixture of shrapnel and battery acid that burned through his pants, thigh, right shoe, and onto his foot.” This victim will also require skin grafts to repair the damage done by the device.
A 16-year-old girl lost four teeth when her e-cigarette exploded near her face. She’ll require more surgery after having already endured a plastics procedure immediately following the explosion.
Lastly, a 17-year-old boy suffered burns on his arms and torso after an e-cigarette battery explosion.
In many cases, the batteries that power these devices are manufactured overseas, which makes enforcement or recovery actions difficult. Shops are taking notice, however, as they are local and can be held responsible for the products they sell.
In any case, as the public learns more about the dangers posed by these devices, they may start demanding tighter controls or paying closer attention to the quality of the devices they’re purchasing. Because, while the debate over the health effects of vaping will likely be ongoing, both sides should be able to agree that the device itself should not pose a danger to the customer.