BATON ROUGE - The State Fire Marshal's Office has issued a warning about the safety of the lithium-ion batteries used to power increasingly popular electronic cigarettes.
The State Fire Marshal says that while it is uncertain whether or not “vaping” represents a healthier alternative to traditional smoking, he says some of the devices have led to serious burn injuries due to the mechanisms that heat and vaporize the nicotine-infused liquid.
In a recent report from the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, a Baton Rouge man suffered second and third-degree burns to a leg and hand after a lithium-ion battery exploded in his pants pocket. The man told an investigator that he heard a popping sound prior to noticing any heat or fire after he’d placed the device in his pocket along with a spare lithium-ion battery.
The State Fire Marshal said the department also investigated an earlier, similar incident involving a Houma man who suffered serious burns to his leg after a lithium-ion battery exploded and caught fire in his pants pocket.
Investigators contacted several hospital burn units and were advised that a surprising number of people have been treated for e-cigarette related injuries in the recent past.
Initial findings by an ongoing investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office into the cause of the reported burns have pointed to the practice of placing loose lithium-ion batteries within close proximity to metal objects in confined spaces. In those tight spaces, there is potential for the battery to come into contact with metal objects like keys, coins and even vaping devices.
Once contact is made between the battery and metal, overheating can result in some cases which, in turn, can cause the batteries to release gases, greatly increasing the likelihood of ignition. Investigators say they have identified specific suspected batteries involved in the Louisiana-based incidents. The model is “18650,” a 3.7 volt battery that is sold under various brand names. Due to the increasing use of battery-powered vape devices and related injuries, the State Fire Marshal recommends vaping enthusiasts follow these guidelines:
- Do not place loose lithium-ion batteries in close proximity to metal objects or to other batteries. This would include being placed in pants pockets, purses, or bags.
- Make sure that there are no deformities to any batteries such as dents, scratches, or that the plastic coating covering a battery is not broken or worn away. If any such conditions exist, dispose of the battery in accordance with manufacturer instructions.
- Use the appropriate battery for the device and/or charger it is designed for. Never use batteries that are not specific to the intended device and/or charger.
- Purchase batteries from reputable retailers. Local, in-store purchases are preferable as salespersons can inspect the device and match it with a specific battery designed to be used with the device.
- When placing batteries in a device and/or charger, make sure that they are placed in the correct orientation as to the polarity of the battery (i.e., positive-positive; negative-negative).
For more information regarding the issue or to report an incident involving the devices, contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at (800) 638-2772.
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