Battery Safety – Technical Fault, User Error or Retail Responsibility?
Recently, there has been a lot of concern over the safety of e-cigarettes, in particular, their batteries. There has been one particular incident which occurred just last month where a man was caught on CCTV in a U.S petrol station with his trousers going up in flames after his e-cig battery exploded. As a result, he was left with nasty second degree burns on his leg.
The media is reporting on similar cases of e-cigarettes and their exploding batteries fairly regularly at the moment and the questions surrounding the incidents have been asking whether they’re a result of a technical fault, user error or retail responsibility.
So, which is it?
The most common explosive (apologies for the pun) stories that have been circulating around the media have all reported that the devices have mainly been blowing up in users’ pockets or when they’re being charged (80% of cases have been when the device is charging). For us here at Grey Haze, we believe accidents like this can easily be avoided by simply carrying out basic electronic cigarette battery safety procedures; so why aren’t people taking the right precautions?
What are E-Cigarette Batteries Made of?
E-cigarettes use lithium ion batteries, the same as hover boards, mobile phones and laptops. These batteries contain electrolytes which can combust when overheated which is what has happened in the case of these recent tragic events. Why isn’t this happening with laptops and mobiles though? Well, it is, particularly with phones that are being charged by non-official chargers, however, not as often as with e-cigarettes.
The mumblings surrounding the incidents are all arriving at different conclusions as to why this is happening if the e-cigarette battery is the same as other very common, domestic electrical devices.
According to the U.S Fire Administration, due to the cylindrical shape of e-cigs, when a battery does overheat, the battery or the actual device, is propelled which is what causes the explosion and the spread of fire – this is the main battery safety difference between e-cigarettes and other domestic technological devices. We’ve been really interested in looking into exactly why these everyday vaping devices that are utilised by users for as much time a day as smartphones, are starting to seem unsafe.
It appears that these events have been triggered by consumers using either batteries or chargers that aren’t specifically intended for e-cigarettes. Gregory Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association has claimed that “When used and charged properly, e-cigarettes pose no more of a fire risk than other products which use lithium ion batteries”. This would imply that because the device isn’t being used correctly, the batteries are becoming dangerous; it’s a risk that is absolutely avoidable.
Similarly, e-cigarettes should never be put in a pocket with loose metals such as keys or change but regrettably, people still do so.
You would think that surely, if informed correctly, users would stay away from dodgy batteries and chargers and would never put their e-cigs in their metal-cluttered pockets if they knew the risk, which indicates that perhaps consumers are not being educated properly on battery safety. Mirroring this, is the unfortunate fact that lack of industrywide safety regulations which govern manufacturers and enforce safety standards, means that people aren’t being made aware of the potentially fatal risks of misusing the devices.
This could be down to the fact that e-cigarettes are still relatively new to the market having only entered the scene in 2007. Either way, the Food and Drug Administration which already has authority over tobacco, wants to take over vaporising devices too in order to study them and make sure that health and safety awareness of e-cigarettes becomes top priority.
Conclusion: Almost all Three
Whilst like any electronic device, there may be anomalies in mass manufactured products which could have a technical fault, we suggest that the the concern for battery safety has not been triggered by technical faults. Although ideally, the devices would never explode, no matter what the circumstance; in the same way that we wish fire wouldn’t spread to become dangerous if mishandled and hairdryers wouldn’t electrocute us when soaking wet.
The majority of incidents that have occurred have been a direct result of user error such as charging with an unsuitable charger or keeping the e-cigarette in your pocket where there’s loose change. Again, why do people do this if they know the risks?
The answer is, seemingly, that the majority of these victims unfortunately didn’t know the risks of the technical build of the products. Why? Because retailers haven’t educated their customers either at purchase or on the packaging. This is what the FDA have identified and are now looking to change to avoid these disastrous accidents.
In the meantime, we thought it would be a good idea to tell users how to keep them and their e-cigarettes safe with some clear Dos and Don’ts for e-cigarettes mod batteries:
- Know the amperage limit of your battery – do not exceed this.
- If your battery has a torn wrapper (obvious on the battery), it needs to be replaced asap.
- Excessive temperatures are bad for any Around 59oF is the best temperature.
- Never leave the battery in your car.
- NEVER keep batteries in your pocket with loose change or keys.
- When not in use, put your batteries in approved cases.
- Keep your battery charger in a place where you can easily see it.
- Batteries will eventually wear out and thus need to be replaced every 3-6 months depending on use and quality so make sure you monitor how long you’ve had your battery in your device.