Hospitals in Seattle, as in other hospitals nationwide, have seen an alarming rise in the number of people arriving at the ER with serious burn injuries caused by exploding e-cigarettes, The Seattle Times reported.
According to the report, Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center has treated four patients who sustained serious burn injuries from exploding e-cigarettes just since October. Three out of four of those involved gruesome injuries to the head and face.
The other involved a hand injury so severe that the patient, a 24-year old Central Washington resident, may not regain control of his right hand.
A lawyer for the man told The Seattle Times that his client was driving when his e-cigarette began making a static noise. Less than a second later, it exploded and “really tore the heck out of his hand and arm,” the lawyer said.
The injury required the man to be airlifted to the Seattle hospital, where he has undergone five surgeries and skin grafts to his hand and forearm.
In October, another man, also 24 years old, lost eight front and bottom teeth when his e-cigarette blew up in his mouth, sustained cuts to his lips and gums and burns on his right eye, and underwent oral surgery to remove four additional teeth.
In November, a 24-year-old woman was admitted to Harborview Medical Center after an e-cigarette exploded, ripped her nose ring out and tore through her nose and upper lip, resulting in scars that could be permanent because they are difficult to surgically repair.
In February, a 25-year-old employee of an e-cigarette shop received second-degree burns to his face and right hand when his e-cigarette exploded.
Dr. Elisha Brownson, a Harborview trauma and critical burn-care physician who is keeping track of the e-cigarette injuries, told The Seattle Times that “this was something that was happening more frequently than we had previously recognized.”
“I just think that if people really knew this could explode in your face, they would consider twice putting a device like this to their mouth,” she told The Seattle Times.
The escalating problem also correlates with the growing popularity of e-cigarettes in the U.S. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly 13 percent of U.S. adults have tried e-cigarettes at least once, and about 4 percent use the devices daily.
Usage is even higher among high-school teens. E-cigarette use nearly tripled between 2013 and 2014 and more than 13 percent of kids in that age group are now users, according to the CDC.
Almost all e-cigarette device failures involve overheating lithium-ion batteries. According to The Seattle Times, a report published by the U.S. Fire Administration says that “When the battery seal ruptures, the pressure within the e-cigarette cylinder builds quickly and instantly ruptures, usually at the end. “As a result of the battery and container failure, one or the other, or both, can be propelled across the room like a bullet or small rocket.”