The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating a rising number of incidents being reported across the state of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) exploding and causing severe burn injuries to users.
The Fire Marshal’s investigation was prompted by a couple of recent incidents involving electronic cigarettes that malfunctioned with serious consequences.
A Baton Rouge man is being treated for second- and third-degree burns to his hands and legs after an e-cigarette he put in his pocket suddenly began popping and blasting flames. In Houma, another e-cigarette user suffered serious burn injuries to his leg when his device also exploded inside his pants pocket.
The Fire Marshal contacted several burn units in Louisiana hospitals and discovered that an astonishing number of e-cigarette users have been treated for burns of varying degrees. The rise in the number of e-cigarette burn injuries in Louisiana reflects a national trend as the devices soar in popularity among people of all ages.
So far, the Fire Marshal’s ongoing investigation has found that one way fires and explosions may occur is when people put loose lithium-ion batteries within close proximity to other metal objects, such as keys, coins, or an e-cigarette, which conduct the batteries’ power, causing them to heat up, release gases, and potentially ignite.
Other investigations outside of Louisiana have found the lithium ion batteries can overheat and explode during and after charging.
The Louisiana Fire Marshal recommends that people who use e-cigarettes and similar devices avoid putting them in pockets, purses, or bags with loose batteries and other metal objects.
E-cigarette users are also advised to only use batteries and chargers that are specific to their device, and make sure there are no dents, scratches, peeling plastic coating, and other flaws on the batteries.
The Louisiana Fire Marshal advises customers to buy their batteries from reputable retailers, especially from local stores where a knowledgeable salesperson can match e-cig devices to the right batteries and chargers. Finally, when replacing batteries, be sure to orient them the right way.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a final rule that imposes federal safety regulations on e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems for the first time. The new regulations cover some components of the devices, including some batteries, but do not apply to accessories.