Hot Nuts in Winter

Posted 14th March 2018 by Dave Cross
With the memories of snow just behind us, many people’s thoughts may have turned to how to keep warm during the cold snap. Planet of the Vapes suggests that vapers do not attempt to emulate Erik Howell, who is blaming LG Chem’s 18650 lithium-ion battery for his slightly singed genitalia.

Michael Pecht has recently contributed an article to the house magazine of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), on the subject of exploding vaping devices.

Pecht correctly highlights that electronic cigarettes share a commonality with mobile phones, in that they are generally carried about in close proximity to the body. Thus, if something should go wrong, there is a strong potential for an injury to occur.

Of course, what he terms a “growing danger to public health” is actually restricted to just 243 cited incidents (not “explosions” as Pecht claims), spread over a seven year period, covering not one country but the entire globe. Although the occasional media story might appear to be serious in nature, is it fair to say that a single event in the world every two to three days constitutes a growing danger?

He does raise some valid points about battery manufacture, although none of them can be linked to most of the occasions where thermal runaway has taken place – the incidents being connected to poor charging protocol, a lack of understanding of Ohm’s Law, or a short between the atomiser connection and the mod.

It is interesting to note the comments regarding the investigation of one incident and fake batteries: “My group was asked to investigate a battery that caught fire in the pants pocket of an e-cigarette user, badly burning his leg. The battery label identified the company MXJO as the manufacturer and listed a Taiwanese website, www.mxjo.tw. That website provided a street address, but I found that no such address existed. Shenzhen MXJO Technology Co. (MXJO) has since told me that it has no manufacturing in Taiwan.”

But Erik Howell’s case illustrates that (all too frequently) incidents listed as being related to vaping are no more than people carrying loose batteries in their pockets. Howell was leaving for work with a loose 18650 in his pocket, when it exploded. His lawyer lays the blame at the feet of LG Chem, although vapers might wonder why anybody would choose to place a loose battery close to keys and change?

Howell is now seeking money from the battery manufacturer, hoping it can compensate him for burns to 75% of his penis. Evidence that these events rely more on ignorant use than product faults comes in the form of another claim, being made by Maxwell De La Fuente in Los Angeles. The vaper claims in his lawsuit that his mod exploded in his pocket – but further on in the article we discover “the spare e-cigarette batteries in his pocket exploded”.

Maybe it isn’t a case that companies have “placed profit over safety and knowingly decided to forego safer designs because of decisions to cut corners and costs”, maybe it is more the case that people like De La Fuente and Howell ought to stick to traditional NRT quit methods?


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker