The safety discussions about E-cigarette devices – a high-tech alternative to smoking that uses vapor instead of smoke – have been focused on the health risks of inhaling vapors or “vaping,” but there are growing numbers of cases where people have been horribly injured by the e-cigarette devices themselves when they explode or burst into flames.
We’ll update this article if things change, but right now e-cigarette devices have little government oversight. The FDA is focused on the chemicals or “juice” that are used in vaping, but not on the e-cigarette devices themselves. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has declared that the devices are not under its jurisdiction.
That’s terrible news because there’s a very simple hazard in e-cig devices that leads to explosions that have been identified by the U.S. Fire Administration. (1)
The e-cig devices have a lithium-ion battery that powers the device and can be recharged using a USB cable. Unfortunately, most people today have a collection of USB charging adapters kicking around, not knowing they provide different voltages and electrical currents.
If an e-cig device is plugged into a high-voltage adapter meant for another device, the lithium battery will get too strong a charge and can burst into flames or explode. A 2014 U.S. Fire Administration report found that 80% of e-cigarette fires and explosions happened while the device was plugged in. Of course, that means that the remaining 20% happened when the device was not plugged in, meaning there are other possible design flaws that can harm or even kill a user.