The question whether vaping is much safer than smoking traditional cigarettes has long been a standing debate, not only for the smoking community, but has been an interest of the non-smoking public as well. After all, one of their concerns is the effects and possible health hazards of the second-hand vaping.
But, some vapers, especially those who are new to the phenomenon, still has doubts and questions regarding the safety of the device. After all, some reports claim some vaping devices have exploded, resulting to serious injuries to vapers. One incident reported that a man in Idaho lost seven of his teeth because of the impact of the vape explosion. Another suffered facial burns as his device exploded straight to his face. With all these uncertainties, some get discouraged to try vaping, while others quit it.
Is vaping really safe? How can you ensure that you won’t experience the same fate?
This concern over fire and consumer safety prompted the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) to conduct an investigation, which the results they have published in 2014 through a report aptly named titled “Electronic Cigarette Fires and Explosions”. Here are their findings, studying 25 reports which occurred between 2009 and August 2014:
- Twenty incidents occurred while the battery in the device was being charged.
- Two incidents occurred during use. In two incidents, it is not clear whether the e-cigarette was in use, idle or being charged.
- One incident occurred during transportation on a cargo aircraft.
- Ten injuries and zero deaths were reported by the media.
- Several burn injuries were reported.
- Two serious injuries occurred when devices exploded in users’ mouths.
With all these collected data, they have concluded that the devices’ lithium batteries are the culprit. According to the USFA report, “Lithium-ion polymer batteries are excellent power supplies for portable devices and are widely used by consumers, industries and the emergency services. Lithium-ion batteries are known to experience statistically rare failure events, including fire and explosions. Indeed, there are multiple reports of fires caused by failures of lithium-ion batteries in cellphones, laptop computers, medical devices, electric cars, and myriad other portable electronic devices. The descriptions and photographs in the media reports reviewed are entirely consistent with known failure modes of lithium-ion batteries.” This is because 80% of the incidents occurred while the device was charging from a variety of charging sources.
At the same time, investigators also consider overheating as a cause of the explosion. Though there are no evidence that overheating is the cause of tragedy, the organization called for awareness that it can be a source of ignition. “Manufactured PVs typically have built-in circuits to limit the time that the heating element can be turned on, which prevents overheating and possible fires or injuries. In the absence of independent safety testing of the e-cigarettes, no assurance that these circuits will reliably perform their safety function is available. Homemade Mods may not have over heat protection built in.”
So how can you protect yourself and prevent battery failure and overheating?
“Several different approaches to protecting lithium-ion batteries against explosion or fire have been developed. Protection can be built into the battery, the charging appliance, or the electronics that control the charging cycle. Often, a combination of these approaches is used in a product,” the USFA said.
Here are some ways you can prevent any accident involving exploding vape units and overheating batteries:
Stick with the manufacturer’s provided charger
Don't risk your safety by using generic chargers, or those sold at third party stores. Always use the charging appliance that comes with the unit and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Avoid charging it overnight.
Never leave your device charging, let alone sleeping while it is still plugged.
Be careful about what you plug your e-cig into.
It is best to avoid plugging the e-cig into any old USB port. Also always consider the prescribed voltage and other technical specifications provided by the manufacturer.
Buy from reputable companies and suppliers.
Because high quality mods can be pricey, some take it to their own creativity and resourcefulness to create a DIY and homemade version of the device. If you prioritize your safety, it is best not to opt for these alternatives and stick to the ones sold by legit suppliers.
Check to see if the battery is “safe”.
As a general rule, the battery shouldn’t be more powerful than what the device is designed for. At the same time, never go for poorly manufactured, low-cost, counterfeit ones. You can always check for reviews and read on forums online which ones are the best, and which ones to avoid purchasing.
Take care of your battery
No matter how much of an expert you think for yourself, do not attempt to disassemble or modify your battery as the materials inside may be toxic when they come into contact with skin.
It is also a precautionary measure to never put your e-cigarette in your pocket as lint can easily penetrate through the small openings and cause the switch to malfunction or prevent air from flowing properly. At the same time, refrain and avoid using airtight skins or jackets and putting the battery on its pockets. Heat causes lithium-ion battery packs to degrade much faster than they normally would.
Worst case scenario: if a fire starts, call the fire department immediately. While waiting for help, you can try to put out a small fire by using a Class D fire extinguisher, dry sand or dry table salt.