A Phoenix man is recovering from severe burn injuries after his e-cigarette exploded inside his pants pocket Jan. 18 while he was at work.
Nathaniel Rossi told Arizona’s ABC15 News that he felt like he had “just walked out of a war zone” after a sudden e-cigarette malfunction created hissing and popping sounds along with bright lights and smoke. A coworker/firefighter cut the leg of Mr. Rossi’s pants and treated the wounds, which included second-degree burns. Images of his injuries shared by ABC15 show charred skin along the entire length of his leg, with the worst burns above the knee in the pocket area.
Mr. Rossi told ABC15 News that he believes the malfunction started with the lithium-ion batteries in his e-cigarette.
Lithium-ion batteries have caused scores of explosions and fires in recent years, not just in e-cigarettes and similar devices but in hoverboards, smartphones, and other consumer products. These powerful, rechargeable batteries were even responsible for multiple fires that broke out aboard Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner jets.
E-cigarette explosions and injuries have proliferated in the last several months along with the number of people using the devices. Dr. Kevin Foster of the Arizona Burn Center told Fox10 Phoenix that prior to 2016, the burn center had no reports of e-cigarette related burn injuries. But there was a drastic change in 2016, when the burn center treated 50 separate cases, about one per week.
“Besides burn injury, experts say those impacted also suffered traumatic injury from the explosion, and possibly chemical injuries from the chemicals inside the battery, considered by Foster to be the culprit,” Fox10 Phoenix reported.
Dr. Foster said that it’s hard to determine whether the lithium-ion batteries that power e-cigarettes are safe because they are manufactured overseas.
“It’s impossible to look at an E-Cigarette or [similar] device, and try to determine if it’s a high quality or low quality,” Dr. Foster told Fox10, likening the risks to “carrying an M-80 in your pocket.”