You don’t have to vape to be concerned about a hidden danger of electronic cigarettes. They can blow up or catch fire causing very serious injuries. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration just changed the rules on taking e-cigarettes on airplanes.
This year, one Florida man is left in a coma after his e-cigarette exploded in his face. A Texas man is dealing with excruciating pain.
“I can’t walk because the burn is on top of my muscle on my thigh,” Christopher Robran said.
He said the batteries from his e-cig were in his pocket with his keys when they blew up.
“It sounded like a fuse going off,” explained Robran. "And then there's like fireworks going off in my pants."
In 2013, a 3-year-old boy in Utah suffered painful burns to his elbow, stomach and behind when an electronic cigarette exploded while charging in the car he rode.
With e-cigarettes rising in popularity, there’s also rising concern about this danger.
So much so, the FAA banned electronic cigarettes from checked luggage and stopped passengers and crew members from being able to charge them on board aircraft.
But with no regulation of the e-cig industry, it’s hard to know how big the problem is.
No “one” agency is actively keeping tabs of how many times they blow-up or catch fire.
“Because they are so new, there is not a lot of information out there,” William Abbott, Connecticut state fire marshal, said.
A spokesperson for the U. S. Food and Drug Administration said they do collect complaints, but don’t specifically track the explosions.
In a report sent to the FDA by the physician treating the 3-year-old boy, it says the e-cig exploded while charging in a car, and ricocheted off the ceiling and into his car seat, setting his trousers on fire.
In 2014, the U.S. Fire Administration sent a warning to fire departments across the country. It references a security video showing an e-cig that blew up in a pub in the UK, as well an incident Florida where an electronic cigarette blew up in a man’s face taking out his teeth and his tongue.
All 25 e-cig explosions listed in the report were collected from news stories.
It warned the lithium ion battery is a common link. 20 out of 25 explosions happened while the battery was charging.
“And when the battery overheats it ignites the electrolytes that are inside the battery which are that flammable or combustible liquid,” Abbott explained.
The report, while acknowledging that fires or explosions caused by e-cigarettes are rare, found the shape and construction of the devices can make them more likely than other products with lithium-ion batteries to result in explosion or fire.
Experts also said using a charger that wasn’t designed for that e-cig could also cause an explosion.
Ted Szabo, owner of E-Six in Branford, recalled one of his customers being burned when the e-cig battery got too hot.
“Having two batteries in their pocket with change in between the batteries made connection and heated up and burnt their leg, but again, user error.”
Some larger devices do come with a computer chip that monitors the battery’s heat. Others are custom – made and may not have it, like the one like Kyle Hogson of Branford got custom-made from E-six.
“I had one of those,” said Hogson. “I had a regulated one it was nice. This one, it’s just stylish.”
Szabo faults e-cig users who try to customize their e-cig themselves for adding to the danger of the product. He says he doesn’t recommend tampering with the device yourself and still says one should be careful even if an enhanced e-cig is purchased from a retailer.
“They should probably get a warning prior to walking out the door,” said Szabo.
Currently, no laws require stores or manufacturers to provide any warnings about the batteries or potential for explosion. An FDA spokesperson said it’s up each individual state to regulate that. As of now, Connecticut does not have any legislation regarding warning about the batteries.