According to a recent report, a Nevada teen suffered serious oral injuries from a vape pen explosion. Far from an isolated incident, it is part of a nationwide trend of vape pen explosion injuries that is likely to grow as use of the electronic smoking device continues to become more popular.
“Kind of Like a Close-Range Gunshot Wound”
As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, in March 2018, a 17-year-old Ely, Nevada boy was using a vape pen in his room when it exploded in his mouth. His injuries proved so severe that the local hospital was not equipped to treat them. His parents were forced to driver over 200 miles to a larger hospital in Salt Lake City. The teen’s mouth was packed with gauze throughout the five-hour trip, and he was equipped with a “vomit bag” because he had received no pain medication.
Surgeons treating the teen noted that his entire jaw was cracked, several of his teeth were missing, there was a hole in his chin, and “a two-centimeter piece of his jaw was just blown to pieces.” The surgeons were shocked to learn that he sustained these injuries from a vape pen explosion.
“That’s an injury we see in high-speed motor vehicle crashes,” said one surgeon.
Another surgeon said the damage looked “kind of like a close-range gunshot wound.”
The teen needed two surgeries to repair the damage, including one procedure in which titanium plates were placed in his mandible to stabilize the bone. The surgeons said it was unclear whether the hole in the chin had been caused by a piece of the vape pen or a tooth.
The exploding vape pen was reportedly manufactured by VGOD. The teen’s mother had agreed to purchase it for him because he thought it would help him quit smoking.
Epidemic of Vape Pen Explosion Injuries
Sadly, this is far from the first vape pen explosion incident resulting in serious injuries in the United States. According to a report published in BMJ Journals, between 2015 and 2017, there were approximately 2,035 explosion and burn injuries caused by vape pens – or “e-cigarettes” – though this number was likely to be underestimated given the difficulty of tracking such incidents.
There have also been at least two known vape pen explosion deaths in recent years. In May 2018, a Florida man was killed when his vape pen exploded. The vape pen explosion was so severe that chunks of the device flew through his head and a small fire started in his home. In February 2019, a 24-year-old Texas man suffered a fatal stroke when his vape pen exploded and nicked the carotid artery in his neck.
Batteries Likely at Fault
According to the Food and Drug Administration, “battery-related issues” are the likely cause when a vape pen explosion occurs. Vape pens use lithium-ion batteries, which power a majority of our consumer electronic devices, and lithium-ion batteries have a propensity to combust.
“Lithium is very reactive, quite dangerous, and not stable on its own,” according to analyst Claire Curry at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “So lithium-ion batteries combine the lithium with other metals to try to stabilize the lithium, while not reducing the energy density.” As such, lithium-ion batteries have a natural tendency to overheat, often with very dangerous results for consumers – especially vape pen users.
The United States Fire Administration agrees. Its 2017 report largely blamed vape pen explosions on the presence of lithium-ion batteries.
“No other consumer product places a battery with a known explosion hazard such as this in such close proximity to the human body,” the report said. “It is this intimate contact between the body and the battery that is most responsible for the severity of the injuries that have been seen. While the failure rate of the lithium-ion batteries is very small, the consequences of a failure, as we have seen, can be severe and life-altering for the consumer.”
The report concluded that vape pens are especially likely to inflict serious lithium-ion battery injuries because “The shape and construction of electronic cigarettes can make them behave like ‘flaming rockets’ when a battery fails.”
Unfortunately, vape pen explosion injuries are not likely to go away soon. In fact, given current demographic trends, the United States will probably see more of them in the near future. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.6 million middle and high school students used vape pens in 2018 – up by about 1.5 million from the previous year.
What Can I Do If I Have Been Injured by a Defective Product?
We are surrounded by products in our modern world. We trust that these products are safe, that they are manufactured with the best materials and under the best conditions by companies with the best of intentions. But what if they are not? What if you or a loved one is severely injured or even killed in a vape pen explosion or in some other way? How can you make sure that those who are responsible can be held accountable for their negligence?
At times like these, injured people might benefit from the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney, like the Illinois personal injury attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers. With over $2 billion recovered for our clients and more than four decades in the business, GWC is one of the leading Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois. Our attorneys have the experience, the determination, and the proven record of success you need to help get you the justice you deserve.
If you have been wrongfully injured, please contact GWC today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. Call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.