Injuries Caused by Overheating Batteries in E-Cigarettes

The dangers of vaping are not just linked to a variety of health problems. According to the CDC, defective e-cigarette batteries (typically lithium-ion, the same one ones in your cell phone, electric cars, power tools, hoverboards, and laptop) are the culprit causing fires and explosions, some of which have resulted in serious injuries.  E-cigarette fires and explosions can happen when someone carries the device in his or her pocket or charges it through a USB port or wall socket. (There are a number of videos online that show exploding lithium-ion batteries.)

According to a 2016 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, e-cigarette explosion injuries included flame burns, chemical burns and blast injuries, requiring wound care and skin grafting.  Injuries to the face, hand, or thigh need extensive cosmetic work. Blast injuries have led to tooth loss, traumatic tattooing, and extensive loss of soft tissue.

From August 2009 to December 2016, the U.S. Fire Administration found 195 reports of e-cigarette explosions or fires.  (Appendix A in the report contains a full list of the e-cigarette fires.) There were 133 injuries: 38 had serious injuries (i.e, hospitalization, loss of body part, 3 degree burns); 80 had moderate injuries (i.e, ER stay, second degree burns, lacerations); 15 had minor injuries; and 62 had no injuries. There were no deaths attributable to explosions.  Those with serious injuries occurred while the e-cigarette device was in the victim’s mouth, in very close proximity to their face, on carrying the device in their pocket. The agency concluded that, “As long as lithium-ion batteries continue to be used in e-cigarettes, severe injuries will continue to occur. As the number of e-cigarettes in use increases, the number of severe injuries from lithium-ion battery explosions and fires will likely continue to increase.”