An explosion while an electronic cigarette was being recharged has prompted fire chiefs to issue warnings, cautioning people on the dangers associated with e-cigarettes. The incident which occurred at Kirklees in West Yorkshire required the intervention of fire-fighters and is among the latest incidents of e-cigarettes exploding while being recharged.
Most people are already aware about the damage that can be caused by lit cigarettes. Incidents of batteries exploding are now turning the focus on electronic cigarettes which, according to fire chiefs, have not only caused fires but have resulted in the death of at least one person.
The explosion sent burning bits of the e-cigarette across the room leaving blackened scorch marks on the sofa, floors and walls.
E-cigarettes are devices that convert a nicotine-containing liquid into a vapour that can be inhaled by the user.
A variety of electronic cigarettes are available, marketed under different brand names, some using disposable cartridges while others can be refilled and each one coming with its own, specially designed charger.
According to fire-fighters, most of the fires occur due to the use of incompatible chargers or because of the damage caused to the device from over-tightening of the connection between the charger and battery.
Improper use and handling shortens the life of the battery, creates heat and can result in permanent failure of the battery.
Overcharging is another danger area in the case of e-cigarettes as many of the lithium-ion batteries used to power e-cigarettes do not have built-in safety features to prevent the overheating of the coil. An overheated coil can result in the battery exploding.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service fire investigation officer, Sean Fearon, confirmed that in the latest Batley incident, the owner had operated the device as per the instructions.
In an interview with the Huddersfield Examiner, Mr Fearon stated that a lot of research is being conducted to study and identify possible problems with e-cigarettes and the initial results appear to indicate that the problem is not with the product itself but is caused by improper charging.
Fearon also anticipates that people could receive electronic cigarettes as gifts during the Christmas season and advises them to strictly follow the safety advice of the fire department.
Investigations revealed that the e-cigarette involved in the Batley explosion was only around a week old and had since been recharged only a couple of times through the wall socket charger.
The third recharge was attempted through the USB port of the laptop. The occupants of the house reported a yellow flash accompanied by the loud explosion after the e-cigarette was left charging for approximately 15 minutes.
The explosion sent pieces of burning debris flying all over the room with some hitting the opposite wall, carpet and settee, leaving ugly burn marks where they landed.
The worst incident involving e-cigarettes is perhaps the one at Derbyshire which resulted in the death of a person.
Investigators concluded that the fire resulted from the improper assembling of parts from various e-cigarettes which was then sought to be charged with a charger of incorrect rating.
Fire chiefs advise against combining components from different e-cigarettes and over tightening of the battery while attaching it to the charger. They recommend that users charge their batteries only with the charger supplied as part of the kit.
Besides, the charger contact and the battery centre pin must be cleaned with alcohol wipes or tissue at least weekly. Electronic cigarette batteries should not be left unattended while charging and fully charged batteries must be immediately removed from the charger.