The days of being tethered to a wall outlet are long gone. For decades, battery-powered devices that we take everywhere have kept up with our busy lives. The same batteries that add convenience and flexibility to our lives also have the potential to explode and set fires. Read on to learn more about exploding batteries and the cause for serious concern they possess.
Despite the hazards, our reliance on lithium-ion batteries is only growing. The market for them is expected to reach over $92 billion over the next four years. Since they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, it is beneficial to know the risks they can pose.
What are lithium-ion cell batteries?
A lithium-ion battery is a type of rechargeable battery. Compared to most other rechargeable batteries of the same size, they store more energy. Lithium-ion batteries are popular in portable devices because they are lightweight and last a long time without needing recharging. Unlike other common batteries, such as AAs and AAAs, lithium-ion batteries are often built into the devices they power.
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Exploding Headphones, Hoverboards, E-cigarettes, Cell Phones, and More
The vast majority of popular battery-run devices are used on or near the head, making consumers particularly vulnerable to explosions.
E-cigarettes, for instance, are widely believed to be a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. That wasn’t the case for e-smoker Wake D’Elia. When the battery of his device exploded, his e-cigarette shot through his skull and brain, fatally injuring the 38-year-old. This incident also started a fire in his home.
Wireless headphones have also exploded while in use. One instance involved a Florida man who removed his wireless headphones when he noticed smoke arising from them just moments before they exploded. Users who aren’t able to react as quickly can suffer from hearing loss and serious burns.
In another case, one traveler’s headphones exploded mid-flight, burning her face and neck. The safety risks have led airlines to ban hoverboards, a popular product for children. Similarly, the Federal Aviation Administration has set limits on the number of batteries that passengers are allowed to carry on an aircraft.
Hoverboards, a popular children’s toy, have been responsible for multiple house fires. These toys are often stored in the bedrooms of children who are less likely to know how to react to these emergencies.
Users of any age can be unaware of the batteries’ dangers. Cell phones are not only held directly to faces but are also placed near beds, doubling as alarm clocks while users sleep.
Tablets, laptops, watches, and wireless chargers powered by lithium-ion batteries could also malfunction anywhere. Dell and Apple, two of the most trusted technology companies, have recalled almost 6 million lithium-ion packs combined. Smaller companies that cannot afford the same reputational hits may be more likely to sweep issues like this under the rug, leaving consumers to suffer the consequences.
Why are batteries exploding?
Lithium-ion batteries are full of flammable parts. Ultimately, lithium-ion batteries explode because the energy within them is released in an unintended way. The root cause of this is often one of a few reasons.
Two main components within lithium-ion batteries—a positively-charged cathode and a negatively-charged anode—aren’t meant to come into contact with each other. When the separating part between them fails to do its job, the battery can heat up to dangerous temperatures, hot enough to cause fires and explosions. This can happen if manufacturers use second-rate scrap metals or do not otherwise ensure that the positive and negative components have a formidable enough separator between them.
During the production process, mishandled parts can become scratched or punctured as well, exposing those differently-charged components to each other. This can also happen while products are being shipped from place to place.
Even when the lithium-ion battery itself is well-designed, the device it is paired with might not be adequately designed to work with that battery. For example, a company that sells computers could opt to equip their laptops with lithium-ion batteries even though their laptops do not have the proper ventilation design to keep the batteries from overheating.
Damage Caused by User
Many products that use lithium-ion batteries come with warnings and usage guides. For example, most batteries need to be protected from extreme temperatures.
You may have noticed that your own cell phone gives you a warning when you are outside on a hot day. Consumers who use their devices in overly-hot environments and store them in overheated cars could be putting themselves at risk. Leaving a device to charge where it is unventilated, such as leaving a laptop on a sofa, can also lead to overheating.
When devices are dropped, the batteries within them can become damaged. Improperly disposing of a lithium-ion battery and getting the device wet are two other common user mistakes. Lithium-ion batteries are believed to be the culprit of recycling fires in several states including Florida.
Problems with the Charger
Electronic devices are designed to work with specific chargers that deliver the right voltage. If an incompatible charger is used, the lithium-ion battery within a device can deteriorate and explode as a result. Devices typically come with compatible chargers, but those chargers can become misplaced or worn out over time. Consumers often turn to the internet to find cheap, aftermarket replacement chargers that may be incompatible.
Industry Pressure and Competition
Every tech company wants to offer the next best thing. New models of our favorite gadgets are frequently redesigned to be more efficient and lightweight than their predecessors. Products must be attractive, affordable, and easy to carry. It’s a competitive market.
In the race to get new battery-powered products to market, the safety aspect is sometimes compromised if it means an earlier release date, cheaper price, or a sleeker product. Completing inadequate safety testing or skipping testing altogether saves companies time and money.
Do I have a case if I was injured by an exploding battery?
If you sustain injuries, incur medical expenses, or suffer in any way because of a faulty lithium-ion battery, you can seek compensation from manufacturers, distributors, or retailers.
Once a product has posed danger, your first reaction will probably be to throw it away. It is best to safely store it because it could be a valuable piece of evidence in your legal case. The evidence can also help to determine whether more than one party is liable for the malfunction.
The lack of regulations has become so risky for consumers of lithium-ion batteries that the United Nations has had to step in. Beginning January 1, 2020, lithium-ion batteries are required to undergo multiple design tests. Some of the elements that a detailed test summary has to include are the manufacturer’s contact information and a list of tests the battery has passed and failed. If those test results are proven to be exaggerated or completely fabricated, the manufacturer could face serious legal consequences.
Likewise, if manufacturers knowingly allow a faulty lithium-ion battery to go to market or fail to conduct the proper series of tests, they may be held liable for your product-related injuries and property damage. Retailers that do not do their due diligence in making sure lithium-ion battery-powered devices are safe could also be a liable party.
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When to Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve sustained an injury due to a battery explosion or defective product, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Call Viles & Beckman, LLC today at (239) 334-3933 or fill out a contact form online today to learn more about your legal options.
About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at Viles & Beckman LLC who have a combined experience of nearly 60 years: Marcus Viles, Michael Beckman or Maria Alaimo. The information provided in this article comes from years of experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida along with extensive research.