What is Thermal Runaway? The Deadly Hazards of E-Cigarettes
Last year, I wrote about the dangers of E-cigarettes. I am alarmed but not surprised to note they have not become safer in that time. An episode in California when an E-cigarette exploded in a man’s pocket this month highlights a little-known hazard called thermal runaway.
An article in IEEE Spectrum noted how the battery that powers E-cigarettes can fail catastrophically causing the process known as thermal runaway.
The culprit is the Lithium-ion battery in E-cigarettes. The consequences of thermal runaway can be horrific. When this occurs, defects in the battery cause short circuits. This raises the temperature high enough to cause reactions that release still more heat.
This chain reaction may cause severe burn injuries to the smoker. Often E-cigarettes explode in pockets.
This week, a video of a man from California who was burned when his E-cigarette exploded in his pants went viral.
Mohamad Abdihdy was measuring a television in a back storage room of a warehouse, when his pants exploded. The event was described as like firecrackers going off. Abdihdy felt a shock, and sustained burns to his leg.
What Injuries are Caused by E-Cigarettes?
IEEE Spectrum suggested E-cigarettes, also known as “vape pens” or “e-pipes” are becoming a growing menace to public health.
In 2016, in New York, Otis Gooding was behind the counter of a wine store when he felt an explosion on his right thigh. His E-cigarette had exploded in his pocket.
He fought to pull the burning device out of his pocket. Gooding later required a skin graft and 51 staples. He may never recover the full use of his hand after the incident.
In 2017, the National Fire Data Center of the U.S. Fire Administration highlighted 195 separate E-cigarette incidents in the United States from January 2009 to the end of 2016. At least 38 people received injuries to their face, third-degree burns, or the loss of a body part. Many of these incidents were caused by the rise in heat associated with thermal runaway. It’s likely that many cases of injury due to E-cigarettes are never reported to the authorities.
The dangers of burns or the loss of a limb from E-cigarettes are often overshadowed by the health risks of the devices. The Surgeon General lists lung disease, volatile organic compounds and the dangers of heavy metals like lead, tin, and nickel.
How Lithium-Ion Batteries Cause Thermal Runaway in E-Cigarettes
Lithium-ion batteries are used in E-cigarettes because they are packed with energy density and voltage and are rechargeable. However, Lithium-ion batteries have caught fire in a wide range of devices from hoverboards to electric Tesla cars and cell phones like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 that was later withdrawn. When thermal runaway takes place, defects within the E-cigarettes create short circuits and push up the temperature more, causing reactions that release greater heat.
The battery temperatures can reach 900 C and also release flammable and toxic gases
Quality control issues, a lack of protection, and the fact that E-cigarettes may be close to the human body in a pocket or being smoked at the time they explode makes the Lithium-ion batteries a potential ticking time bomb.
We have seen some terrible injuries from E-cigarettes that have proved fatal in some cases.
Are Deaths Linked to E-Cigarette Explosions?
Yes. In 2018, the death of a man in St. Petersburg, Florida, was linked to an E-cigarette explosion.
CNN reported Tallmadge D’Elia, a 38-year-old man, was found dead in May. Officials who attended a fire alarm at his home found him dead with a wound to the top of his lip and burns on his body. The cause of the death was said to be a projectile wound to the head. The projectile was blown off an E-cigarette manufactured by Smok-E Mountain, CNN reported.
Contact a Virginia E-cigarette Injury Lawyer
More and more people are suffering terrible burns and other substantial injuries from E-cigarettes. Not only are electronic cigarettes no healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes, but they have a track record of exploding and there is scant regulation in the vaping and E-cigarette market. If you or a loved one has been harmed by one of these devices, you may have grounds to file a product liability lawsuit against a maker or a retailer. Please call our Virginia Beach dangerous products lawyers at (757) 455-0077.