A US man has died when his vape pen exploded and fired fragments into his head. According to reports, the 38-year-old also suffered post-death burns on 80 percent of his body in a fire caused by the blast, which occurred at a family home in St Petersburg, Florida.
Although this is thought to be the first time anyone in the US has died from a vape pen explosion, it isn’t the first time vape pens have exploded, causing injury.
Back in 2016, for example, an e-cigarette exploded in the pocket of a person working at a wine store in New York City. He suffered from third-degree burns, and was expected to have had surgery at the time.
There have been several other incidences where the explosion has happened while the device is in the mouths of those vaping; the resulting bang appears to have caused them not only to suffer extreme burns, but the loss of multiple teeth. In one case, someone’s neck was broken.
According to the US Fire Administration (USFA), between January 2009 and the end of 2016, 195 incidences of explosion and fire involving e-cigarettes were reported in the US media, with 29 percent of them being severe. As these were the only ones reported, however, the real number is likely to be higher and to increase over time as adoption of the devices rises.
This latest incident isn’t the start of a Galaxy Note 7-style firestorm sweeping the pockets and bags of various people all over the world. Saying that, these explosions are life-threatening, so must be taken seriously – so what’s the deal?
As explained over at WIRED, the antagonizing factor here is likely to be the lithium-ion batteries, which have exploded in plenty of devices over the last couple of decades. In vape pens, these batteries are used to heat an aerosol shell that’s used to create the vapor.
If the battery is damaged or is poorly constructed, it can short circuit, overheat, and burst into flames. In fact, the USFA explains that “the shape and construction of electronic cigarettes can make them (more likely than other products with lithium-ion batteries) behave like ‘flaming rockets’ when a battery fails.”
Over the course of several charge cycles, a conductive compound known as dendrite can sometimes grow over the internal circuitry, which can also cause a dangerous short circuit.
If you’re a vaper, then, buy your devices from a reputable source that abides by the highest safety standards.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also suggests not charging the device unattended or overnight, and to replace the batteries if they are damaged or inundated. They also advise purchasing vape devices with explicit safety features.
The FDA also emphasizes that you shouldn’t charge it up, or modify it, with unauthorized devices or componentry either. According to various reports, the device the late man was using was indeed modified, in that it allowed him to use more of the battery’s juice at any one time, and the voltage wasn’t regulated. It has yet to be confirmed that the battery was the cause of the blast, however.
In any case, the USFA report states that “since the current generation of lithium-ion batteries is the root cause of these incidents, it is clear that these batteries are not a safe source of energy for these devices.”