Millions of Americans have switched from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes to avoid the health risks associated with tobacco. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies reported more than 2,000 serious burns and other injuries from exploding vapes between 2015 and 2017, the most recent year for which they have published data.
If you or a loved one uses an e-cigarette or vapes, understand the injury risks associated with these devices.
Common types of injuries
Researchers at the University of Washington Medicine Regional Burn Center in Seattle reviewed federal data and reported that patients suffered impact-related blast injuries, chemical burns and flame burns when vapors exploded.
Most often, the injury affected the groin and thighs when the device was in the person’s pocket, or the e-cig exploded during use and injured the hands, face or mouth.
Reasons for explosion risk
Pen-shaped and other tube-like vaporizers and e-cigarettes provide optimal conditions for explosion. If the lithium-ion battery that powers the device fails, combustion shatters the device, creating searing heat and fast-moving projectiles.
Explosion is more common when a person uses batteries without a case, damaged batteries or batteries with exposure to extreme cold or heat. For example, leaving a vape in your car in the summer can increase the risk of an explosion.
Carefully charge your batteries according to manufacturer instructions, and only use the charger that came with the battery. Do not leave charging batteries unattended. Use storage safety cases when transporting loose batteries. Discard batteries that have visible damage. Avoid mechanical mods, which have limited safety protections against battery explosions.
E-cig explosion liability
Liability for e-cig explosions may rest with manufacturers who create unsafe, untested batteries and with vape shops that sell loose, potentially damaged batteries. Currently, these devices are subject to limited federal regulation.
Several Washington residents have successfully sued sellers and manufacturers after e-cigarette explosions.