Authorities in Florida believe a St. Petersburg man died from blast injuries he sustained from an e-cigarette malfunction Saturday, May 5.
According to the Miami Herald, the St. Petersburg Fire Rescue unit responding to a fire just north of downtown St. Petersburg found the 38-year-old man, identified as Tallmadge D’Elia, dead in his 19th Ave. North home with “multiple injuries to his face.”
The explosion reportedly started a fire in a room of the house. Investigators said they are uncertain whether Mr. D’Elia died from injuries he suffered directly in the explosion or from the resulting fire.
If authorities confirm that Mr. D’Elia died as a result of the e-cigarette explosion or resulting fire, his death would be the first known fatality linked to an e-cigarette malfunction in the United States. An autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death.
In Aug. 2014, a man in the Liverpool area of the U.K. died when his e-cigarette exploded and started a fire that ignited the oxygen tube of an oxygen concentrator, which the man had been using at the time.
E-cigarette explosions are almost always the result of a lithium-ion battery malfunction. The rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used to power e-cigarettes and other electronic devices can overheat, emit intense flames, and explode if they are damaged, overcharged, improperly used, stored with other metal objects, or contain a manufacturing defect.
E-cigarettes hit the U.S. market in 2007 as an alternative to smoking conventional tobacco. The number of people using e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery devices continues to grow year after year. There are currently nearly 3 million e-cigarette users in the U.S., with sales approaching about $3 billion annually.
With growing e-cigarette sales has come an escalating number of blast-related injuries including second-and third-degree burns, lacerations, loss of teeth, and loss of eyes. In addition to bodily harm, e-cigarettes and lithium-ion battery explosions can also cause serious property damage.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, a third of e-cigarette-related explosions occurred in the user’s front pocket. Such explosions are usually triggered when the e-cigarette or spare battery contacts other metal objects, such as coins or keys.
E-cigarette explosions that occur in the user’s hand or mouth are likely the result of a malfunction, damage, or improperly paired e-cigarette and battery.