Upstate e-cigarette user hurt after device explodes - FOX Carolina 21

Upstate e-cigarette user hurt after device explodes

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A man vapes from an e-cigarette (FOX Carolina) A man vapes from an e-cigarette (FOX Carolina)
WHNS (FOX Carolina) -

E-cigarettes are growing in popularity.

Last year, a poll found that 10 percent of Americans said they vaped. And there are many options in an industry that's growing and could soon be more heavily regulated by the Federal Drug Administration.

Health questions about vaping have been widely reported, but you don't hear much about e-cigarettes exploding.

One Upstate man who smoked e-cigarettes says that he was badly hurt when his exploded in his pocket.

Brandon Yarbrough is an account executive at FOX Carolina. Until December, he used an electronic cigarette.       

“I was vaping because I thought it was, you know, fun, cool and something to do. I definitely regret it now,” he said.

Yarbrough says an e-cigarette exploded in his pocket.

At the time, he was trying to kick the vaping habit.

"I'll tell you this much.  Nothing like having it explode in your pocket is a good way to encourage you to stop."

Yarbrough and some other FOX Carolina employees were having lunch at a nearby restaurant.

Yarbrough says his e-cig was in his pants pocket when it just exploded.

"There was a lot of sparks and metal shooting out."

"I immediately stood up and grabbed it at which point that's when I got burns on my hand, threw it down,” he said.

Yarbrough was rushed to Greenville Healthcare System, then sent to the Augusta Burn Center.

He suffered second and third-degree burns to his thigh and hand.

“I was in the most pain of my entire life,” Yarbrough said.

Doctor Shawn Fagan is a surgeon at Augusta Burn Center.

Fagan did not treat Yarbrough, but says he has seen others hurt by e-cigarettes.

"The injuries that do occur are significant and affect very cosmetic areas like face and functional areas like our hands."

Fagan said it appears that the battery-powered vaporizers that simulate the feeling of smoking are not as regulated as other products on the market.

But those who work with the e-cigarette industry say there's more to it.

Andrew Mulvihill is the manager of Nicvape store on Woodruff Road in Greenville.

Mulvihill said safety falls not only on manufacturers and sellers, but those who use the devices.

He said it’s important to clean the device and use the right charger for the unit’s battery, as well as check the battery to ensure that it’s in good shape and never leave a battery charging unattended.

"You've got to think of electronic devices all over the place. Cell phones, laptops, some are using the exact same batteries we are. So, there's a hazard no matter where you look at the angle from, but it's not a hazard as long as you use the safety protocols,” Mulvihill said.

Articles published in the past month could have people thinking differently, including reports of exploding e-cigarette severely burning people in New Hampshire and Indiana, as well as a man who lost his teeth and had his jaw wired together after an e-cig exploded and a teen’s leg that was burned after an e-cig exploded in their pants.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it is aware of at least 25 explosions between 2009 and 2014 in which nine people were hurt.

The agency did warn in a 2014 report that the “shape and construction of e-cigarettes can make them more likely than other products with lithium-ion batteries to behave like flaming rockets when a battery fails.”

No matter what the statistics show, Brandon Yarbrough says he knows the impact of an explosion all too well.

He's seeking legal help and can't tell us what type of e-cig or battery he was using.

He says he just wants others to be aware of what happened to him.

"It just went off - no warning, nothing."

There are several vaping and e-cigarette trade associations and other groups.

FOX Carolina contacted some of them to get their take on fires like the one involving Yarbrough.

While they said they couldn't respond to his specific case, they say they take incidents like his seriously.

They also shared safety guidelines:

  •  Buy from a reputable vendor...
  •  Don't over-tighten the charger into the battery.
  •  Don't leave batteries unattended.
  •  Don't use a damaged battery.
  •  Don't leave batteries in the car... because of extreme hot or cold.
  •  Use a charger that matches the battery.

They also caution people who vape to check that the contact points for the battery are clean.

The Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association said this in a statement:

“While we take these reports very seriously, millions of former smokers across the united states and overseas continue to use these products as intended and have found vaping to be a significant alternative to combustible cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes are an electronic device and do not combust. They should be thought the same as other rechargeable electrical equipment such as laptops and cell phones, in terms of being battery powered.”

The association said it could not speak to user error on behalf of a manufacturer of their device and compared issues with e-cigs to other devices, such as lap top or cell phones.

The American Vaping Association said in a statement:

"Whether it is vapor products, cell phones, or laptops, no product with lithium-ion batteries can be used billions of times over the course of a single year and never fail. With millions of ex-smokers using vapor products on a daily basis, the U.S. Fire Administration reported that there had been 25 incidents involving e-cigarettes from 2009 to 2014."

Tom Pruen, chief scientific officer with the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA), wrote in an email that he couldn’t comment on the specifics of Yarbrough’s case.

He said that e-cig batteries have a chemistry known as Lithium-ion (Li-ion).

Pruen went on to say:

“Li-ion batteries offer extremely high energy density (they store a lot of power in a small space), which is why they have been adopted for use in small, power-hungry devices such as mobile phones, laptops and electronic cigarettes. The high energy density enables a small battery to provide a useful amount of power, but if something causes the battery to fail in a way that releases this power quickly, the results can be dramatic, and dangerous. This has been seen in rare cases with pretty much every device that uses a Li-ion battery, from mobile phones to electric cars.”

Copyright 2016 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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