A lot of people hail vaping like a safer substitute for cigarettes, arguing that there’s no tobacco smoke, so it’s got to be safer. It remains to be seen if that’s true, there is some evidence that this stuff inside vapes and e-cigs is toxic. But beyond that, there’s the fact this stuff occasionally blow up.
You hadn’t heard of this? Some pretty gruesome reports are starting to pile up. In November, a male in Colorado broke his neck, lost some teeth, and suffered burns and facial fractures when his electronic cigarette exploded. A 15-year-old California boy lost half twelve teeth in the similar mishap last month. In Tennessee, another teen is coping with the severe burns caused each time a vape pen starter kit caught fire in the pocket a couple weeks ago.
Statistics outlining just how prevalent this is certainly remain thin, although the Federal Emergency Management Agency, of most things, identified 25 cases of electronic cigarette explosions in the US between 2009-2014. However, that list relies only on incidents reported through the media. Given that vaping’s seen a surge in popularity since that time-this past year, the CDC reported a three-fold increase among middle- and school students alone-the quantity certainly is rising. A simple Online search shows at least a dozen explosions in 2015 alone.
Instead of burning tobacco, vape pens and e-cigs use a small lithium-ion battery to heat an aerosol cartridge to release a vapor that’s inhaled. Like any device which utilizes lithium-ion batteries, you may come across problems once the battery is damaged or subjected to extremes in temperature. A short circuit might cause battery to overheat, catch fire, as well as explode. These complaints usually occur in cheap consumer gadgets that happen to be quickly churned out from factories. In general, it’s relatively rare, but obviously it happens-most recently, in hoverboard scooters.
“With lithium-ion batteries on the whole, if you operate one outside its safety window, there’s a tendency where things will go wrong,” says Venkat Viswanathan, who teaches mechanical engineering Carnegie Mellon University. That window is startlingly small: Viswanathan says batteries are the best kept between 50 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s February, and all of but four US states are averaging temperatures below 50 at this time.
In some cases, the thing is compounded by cheap lithium-ion batteries that “don’t hold the luxury of utilizing sophisticated management systems,” Viswanathan says. That can bring about dangerously over- or under-charged batteries. Dendrite can be another potential problem. Dendrite is really a conductive filament that will form throughout boxmmod charge/discharge cycles, especially if the battery is rapidly charged. These things can spread like a weed, eventually bridging the electrodes and resulting in a short circuit. “You have basically something equivalent to gasoline inside of your lithium-ion battery,” Viswanathan says, “and thus immediately it catches fire.”
Lithium-ion batteries power a whole lot of gadgets naturally, and often achieve this without trouble. But such things as mobile phones and laptops and electric vehicles typically are produced to exacting specifications and rigorously tested, both with the company and outside experts. The Smoke-Free Alternative Trade Association, which represents for vape-makers, said it “cannot talk to user error or with respect to a manufacturer for device” and, “If you find truly an issue with a specific device, just like a lap top or cellphone manufacturer, that company should use the appropriate action.”
And to be fair, it’s not unusual for users to change their box mod vape, and numerous websites offer tips on how to do exactly that. The industry trade group duly notes that hacked and modded devices can pose a safety risk.
Which all begs the question what, if something, has been done about this. Most regulatory discussions about e-cigarettes and vapes target the Food and Drug Administration’s critique of your chemicals based in the devices. The FDA is about to introduce rules regulating the marketplace, a move that could classify electronic cigarettes and vaping products very much like tobacco. Products would carry warning labels, sales to minors will be banned, and you’d see restrictions on things like offering free samples. But little is considered in regards to the safety of your devices.
The Smoke-Free Alternative Trade Association says it supports “reasonable science-based regulations,” but opposes whatever might “stifle innovation.” Nevertheless it argues “e-cigs and vapor products are technology products, separate and distinct from combustible tobacco.” They liken those to electronic products.
That’s where things get tricky. Asked whether it has any safety concerns concerning the devices, the buyer Products Safety Commission deferred for the FDA, saying it is the federal regulator in charge there. The FDA does claim responsibility for ensuring the protection in the parts within the devices that happen to be used in the intake of cigarettes and tobacco products. But there aren’t plenty of safety rules for manufacturers to follow along with, as well as the FDA is encouraging people to report any problems.
Viswanathan includes a recommendation for companies making what is popcorn lung from vaping along with other gadgets that use lithium-ion batteries: Crib from automakers making electric cars. They’ve developed sophisticated systems for minimizing the potential risks of problems. “Lithium-ion batteries fundamentally are prone to catching fire,” he says, “and car makers have found efficient methods to create zones where these batteries are secure to operate.”
Granted, the percentages that the vape pen will blow up like an exploding cigar are slim. However it is possible, so your best option is to buy a quality vape pen coming from a reputable manufacturer. Examine the parts-when they look and feel cheap, they probably are. Viswanathan suggests making certain it’s got some form of battery management system to stop shorts and thermal runaway. Ensure you’re using the right battery and charger, and don’t modify anything.