Is Vaping REALLY Safe?
Vaping has exploded onto the scene in recent years… but the vapes themselves are sometimes exploding all too literally, as well. These explosions been occurring for several years, but have attracted renewed attention lately due to the death of a man.
So, what do we make of all this?
The first modern e-cigarettes (also known as vaporizers or “vapes”) were invented in the early 2000s and introduced to American markets in 2007. In the past decade, millions of smokers in the United States have embraced them as an alternative to cigarettes.
Nor is vaping limited to nicotine; other substances, such as cannabis, can be vaped as well.
Vaping has been marketed as a convenient alternative to smoking, and one which is healthier than traditional tobacco use, although the scientific evidence on this is not perfect, and vaping does appear to pose some health risks.
However, the most immediate risk of vaping comes not from the chemicals that the user ingests but from the device itself, and the small but significant probability that the battery will explode.
Why is this a news item?
Vape explosions have been known to occur for years. You may have heard about them in the news more recently due to the death of a Florida man.
Tallmadge D’Elia, 38, was found dead on May 5 in a fire in his home, and the death was ruled by an autopsy to have been the result of an explosion in the vape pen D’Elia had on him.
Although D’Elia suffered severe burns over much of his body, the direct cause of death was the shrapnel that lodged itself in his head from the exploding vape battery.
This certainly is not the first occurrence of its kind. In fact, there have been hundreds of similar incidents, according to a report by the United States Fire Administration.
However, although many people have been injured by exploding vape batteries, D’Elia may be the first actual death attributable to this cause in the United States, and that is why this topic is making waves.
So, what do you need to know about vape explosions? Here’s a brief rundown:
Vape explosions are rare, but serious.
According to the above-linked U.S. Fire Administration report, there have been approximately 195 recorded vape explosions in the United States, as of 2016. (It’s likely that the number has gone up slightly in the two years since the report has been published, but not by any unprecedented measure.)
Of these 295 vape explosions, 133 resulted in injuries, and of these injuries, 38 were severe.
This may sound like a lot, but it is important to keep in mind that the risk is statistically quite small, considering the millions of vapes currently in use across the United States. Nor are vape batteries the only types of batteries known to explode.
However, vape explosions are uniquely devastating for one major reason: vapes are more likely than most other types of electrical devices to be kept in people’s’ pockets, in close proximity to the body so that if they explode, they are much more likely to do real harm.
When it is not in a user’s pocket, the vape is likely to be in use, which means that it is likely in or near the user’s face… and if the battery explodes here, the injuries may be even worse.
Sure enough, in the U.S. Fire Administration study, 121 of the vape explosions (well over half of the total) occurred when the device was either in the user’s pocket or in active use near the face.
The fires caused by an exploding vape can also pose a risk in and of themselves. In 10 of the recorded incidences, the explosion led to a major fire that did serious damage to a building and had to be suppressed by the fire department.
WHAT CAUSES VAPES TO EXPLODE?
The explosions are caused by lithium batteries in the vapes.
Vapes typically explode because of their lithium batteries short circuiting, which leads to a feedback loop resulting in combustion. That’s the short version of it, at least.
These lithium batteries present a unique hazard. In the words of the Fire Administration report, “No other consumer product places a battery with a known explosion hazard such as this in such close proximity to the human body.”
The problem is made even worse by the fact that many vape users buy their own spare batteries, or salvage them from other devices. Such spare batteries might lack the necessary protective circuitry to keep the user safe that is included in the original vape battery.
Some batteries may say that they are “protected,” but this is a vague term and may not mean that the battery has the necessary protective circuitry to stop an explosion.
And, of course, some consumers go even further and construct their own makeshift vapes from spare parts or other materials. In terms of the risk of explosion, this makes things much worse.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM A FAULTY VAPE?
There are a few steps that consumers can take to protect themselves. In fact, a list of safety tips has been released by the FDA, which has been regulating vapes since 2016.
First, be sure that you use the right charger. Always use the charger that the vape came with, or another one of the same type. Never use any other charger, and especially not one intended for a phone or other device than a vape.
Second, be careful when charging the device. Make sure that you stay around and keep an eye on it, and do not leave your vape charging overnight.
Third, take good care of the batteries. If there is any damage to the batteries, or they come into contact with water, then replace them immediately. If batteries are not being used, then store them in a case and separate from other metal objects.
As with the charger, you should only use the type of batteries recommended for your device. Make sure that they are the same brand, with the same charge levels, and that old and new batteries do not get mixed up with each other.
Finally, use your common sense when vaping. Familiarize yourself with the manual for the device beforehand, and obey any safety warnings. Do not alter your vape, or disable any safety features. Charge it on a clean and flat surface, and do not expose it to extreme temperatures (whether extreme highs or lows).
If you have any questions about the safety of the product, then you should not hesitate to contact the company which made it.
Taking these steps, and following basic common-sense safety procedures, will greatly decrease your risk of suffering a vape explosion. Unfortunately, however, if the product is badly designed then no amount of safety precautions will be able to completely protect you.
STEPS TO TAKE AFTER A VAPE ACCIDENT
If your vape explodes, there are a few steps you should take.
The first and most important step is to ensure your own safety and that of those around you. If the explosion has caused a fire, then call the fire department. If you or another person has been injured, then seek immediate medical attention.
It is important to seek medical attention even if your injuries do not seem severe. Adrenaline can mask the true severity of your injuries.
Second, you should report the incident to the FDA. You can do this on their website, and it will be added to a government record of all such incidents.
This will allow them to effectively track the causes of vape explosions, and perhaps find solutions to the problem down the road. If you have experienced a vape explosion, you probably want to do everything you can to make sure that no one else ever has to go through the same experience, and this will help further that goal.
Include as much information as possible, including the brand name and model of both the vape and the battery, as well as the vape’s serial number and manufacturer, where it was purchased, and whether there were any modifications.
Third, you should speak to an attorney.
Not all vape accidents are actionable legal cases. In some instances, the vape explosion will be the consumer’s fault. If this is the case, then no amount of litigation will change that.
However, if the vape explosion or fire occurred because of some defect with how the vape was made, then you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
SO HOW DO VAPE LAWSUITS WORK?
It’s simple. You see, manufacturers of vapes (like all other consumer products) have a duty to design vapes that are reasonably safe, and would not pose an unreasonable hazard to the user when used normally for their intended purpose.
No product can be 100% safe, but consumers who buy a product have a right to expect that it will not malfunction unexpectedly when being used in a normal way.
In fact, there is an entire field of personal injury law, known as product liability law, which is designed to deal with these sorts of cases. Of course, not all product liability cases involve vapes, but the duty is no less for vape producers than it is for any other producer of consumer goods, such as cars or food.
On one level, product liability lawsuits are easier than other types of personal injury lawsuits, because product liability law involves strict liability. This means that you do not have to prove negligence against the manufacturer or designer; you must simply prove that a design flaw existed and that it was traceable back to the manufacturer or designer.
If a vape is so poorly designed or manufactured that it is unsafe when being used normally, then the injured consumer (or other parties who were injured by the malfunction) will be able to sue to recover damages related to their injury.
Not everyone will have a case, but whether or not you do end up having one, it is important to preserve evidence after the accident. Take pictures of the vape and the damage done by the explosion, and get medical records of your injuries.
Also, whatever you do, don’t send the defective vape back to the company! They may promise you a free new one, but if you give up the defective product so that it can’t be used as evidence in court, this will seriously harm your case. Don’t play into their hands!
And in our experience, many victims of defective products have a better case than they asume at first. So if you have been injured by a vape explosion, then don’t hesitate to talk to an attorney! Consultations are free, and you may have a stronger case than you might think.
If you have been injured in a vape explosion, then call Torklaw today for a FREE consultation. We are interested in hearing your story and finding out what we can do to get you the justice you deserve.