Exploding e-Cigarettes Are a Growing Danger to Public Health
On 23 November 2016, as he stood behind the counter of a wine store in New York City, Otis Gooding felt an explosion on his right thigh. The e-cigarette he’d been carrying in his pants pocket had suddenly erupted like a small fireworks display. As a security camera later showed, the 31-year-old Gooding struggled to pull the burning device out of his pants. Gooding would later need a skin graft and 51 staples, and he may never recover the full use of his hand.
Exploding cigarettes sound like a party joke, but today’s version isn’t funny at all. In fact, they are a growing danger to public health. Aside from mobile phones, no other electrical device is so commonly carried close to the body. And, like cellphones, e-cigarettes pack substantial battery power. So far, most of the safety concerns regarding this device have centered on the physiological effects of nicotine and of the other heated, aerosolized constituents of the vapor that carries nicotine into the lungs. That focus now needs to be widened to include the threat of thermal runaway in the batteries, especially the lithium-ion variety.
In July 2017, the National Fire Data Center of the U.S. Fire Administration identified 195 separate e-cigarette incidents in the United States between January 2009 and 31 December 2016. Thirty-eight incidents resulted in third-degree burns, facial injuries, or the loss of a body part. The number of fires and explosions has risen in tandem with the rise in e-cigarette sales. The report also notes the lack of regulations, codes, or laws governing the safety of the batteries in e-cigarettes. And there’s reason to believe that many cases of injury are never registered with government authorities. An online blog asserts that at least 243 e-cigarette explosions occurred from August 2009 to April 2017, resulting in 158 personal injuries. Other explosions harmed animals or property.
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Published February 28, 2018