Wellborn Paluch, LLP Blog

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Another Dangerous Product: Exploding E-Cigarettes

Is it true that e-cigarettes can explode?

Just when people were being to think that e-cigarettes, though not perfectly healthy, were a better alternative to typical smoking, it now turns out that they may explode and cause very serious injuries. Hospitals across the nation are starting to report acute burn injuries to individuals whose e-cigarettes have exploded. Defective products can cause serious damage. If you have experienced an injury from an e-cigarette or from any other defective product, you should contact a forceful, knowledgeable personal attorney promptly to help you receive the compensation you deserve for your medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

At one regional burn center in Seattle, for example, 15 patients were treated for such injuries between October 2015 and June 2016, and at the University of Colorado Hospital Burn Center six people have been treated for similar injuries so far this calendar year. If you want visual evidence of the dangers of the product, you have only to search the internet to find a number of graphic images of people who have suffered severe injuries to their mouths, tongues, faces, and upper legs simply as a result of engaging in this seemingly benign habit.

What types of injuries occur?

According to Elisha Brownson, a physician with the University of Washington’s Harborview Medical Center, “We [see] about two patients a month with injuries related to e-cigarette explosions, and we have learned that there are several different ways to be injured by these products.”  Investigations into the causes of the explosions have produced frightening data. Brownson explained that, in addition to the injuries caused by burns from flames, users can also suffer more complex chemical burns from exploding batteries.

What parts of e-cigarettes can cause explosions?

Several of the components of e-cigarettes are potentially explosive, including the aerosol generator, the flow sensor, the container that holds the vaping liquid and the lithium-ion battery. Recalls on other technological devices have already shown that lithium-ion batteries can catch fire or explode.

At first, the explosions seemed a relative rarity; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported a total of 25 incidents between 2009 and 2015. Now that the number of users is rising rapidly, however, more and more serious injuries are being reported, with six to date this year. The growing number of users correlates with a rise in the number of serious injuries.

When do the explosions occur?

There is recorded evidence of e-cigarettes exploding while being smoked, resulting in broken teeth and tears and burns of mouth, tongue and facial tissues. Some of the cases involve e-cigarette devices catching fire or exploding in pants pockets, causing burns on the thighs and genitals, as well as to the hands when the victim attempts to remove the device from the pocket. In other cases, the explosion of the vaping device can result in bits of metal flying into the user's body like shrapnel. The burns due to e-

cigarettes being seen by medical professionals are often third-degree burns and most require skin grafts, leaving significant scars.

According to an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, cheaply made cells present a much greater risk than well-made lithium-ion batteries. Sean Kanke, president of Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. confirms that it is the "flood of low-cost, low-quality devices that are hurting people." Unless and until the industry is required to meet tough standards, these defective products are going to continue causing serious personal injuries.

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