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Andrew D'Arcy
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EXPLODING E-CIGARETTE BATTERIES

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is probing the dangers of exploding batteries in e-cigarettes, following dozens of reports of devices that have combusted, overheated or caught fire.  The agency announced a two-day public meeting for April.  The Associated Press reported last month that 66 explosions were identified by the FDA in 2015 and early 2016.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices made to mimic traditional cigarettes.  They are often shaped like cigarettes or pipes, and work by heating a nicotine mixture called “e-liquid,” “e-juice,” or “vape juice.”  E-cigarettes are now a $7 billion global industry made up of roughly 500 brands.  However, due to a rash of e-cigarette explosions caused by volatile lithium-ion batteries, many consumers are now filing lawsuits against e-cigarette companies, seeking relief for physical, emotional and financial injuries.  Dozens of lawsuits allege serious injuries caused by exploding batteries.

The most common injuries suffered by vapers are lung-related but e-cigarettes are exploding with greater and greater frequency and many vapers have suffered burns, scars, and even amputated fingers.  Four New Jersey residents, including two teenagers, who suffered third-degree burns when their e-cigarette batteries ignited are suing the shops that sold the “defective” devices. In October 2015, a California jury awarded Jennifer Ries $1.9 million after Ms. Ries suffered second degree burns from an exploding e-cig battery.

The manufacturers of the lithium ion batteries that power the vaping devices are also the targets of the litigation although the attorneys acknowledged it would be tougher to hold them accountable.  The batteries are made in China.

The safety of E-cigarettes has not been extensively studied and there’s no scientific consensus on whether they help reduce rates of cigarette smoking.  Last year the FDA announced it would begin to regulate the fast-growing industry, requiring makers of e-cigarettes to submit their devices and ingredients for review for the first time.

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  1. Mitch Clarke says:
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    Trying to litigate against battery manufacturers is like trying to sue Bic for damages from house fires. Both have inherent dangers, and both are used responsibly for the vast majority of cases. Keep in mind, as well, that e-cigs (nor batteries) don’t explode. However, lithium batteries will definitely undergo thermal runaway when disregarding proper safety protocols by short circuiting the cell.
    For all intents and purposes, e-cigs are about as safe as a knife. In the right hands, it’s a useful tool. In others, it’s a public safety hazard. The difference between the two sets of hands is EDUCATION about what is required to stay safe. Perhaps we should be spreading information rather than condemnation.

  2. charlie says:
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    First, there is no such thing as an e-cig battery. All the batteries used in ecigs were used for other purpposes before ecigs existed. My reading of the news stories is that virtually all the injury accidents that happen when an ecig is in use or being carried involve loose batteries with unprotected terminals or so-called mech mods which have no electronic protections for the battery. What these two have in common are situations where the battery is mishandled in a way that allows a hard short. Lithum ion batteries are liable to do more than fizzle harmlessly when that happens. This risk existed before there were ecigs.

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