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Why do some e-cigarettes blow up?

Posted 5th Apr 2016 to The Science of Vaping


ecigs blowing up

We’ve already spent some blog inches on the advent of vaping explosions. However, with these unfortunate events still happening around the world, it’s relevant to keep reminding our readers of just why they happen, and what you can do to ensure it doesn’t happen to you.

The problem is, the majority of negative press surrounding vaping is typically people misunderstanding the science of vaping or the reasons behind it. In those cases, it’s easy enough to dispel negative attention with clarifications and facts (just look at the popcorn lung case). In this situation, however, it’s often the vapers who are turning against vaping, even though they already know that it’s everything from a promising smoking cessation tool to a tasty afternoon treat.

With vaping explosions, it’s once again a case of ensuring the right information gets to the right people to avoid any future problems.

Why do e-cigarettes blow up?

A number of investigations have looked into the exact causes of these accidents. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the US, as much as 80 percent of them happen while the battery is charging, and just 8 per cent of accidents happened during actual use of the device. For the remainder, it was either not reported how the device was being used at the time of the explosion, or it was during storage or transport.

Interestingly, of those that exploded during charging, not one of them was from a larger PV – they were all with vape pens that recharge via USB. The problem here, as stated by FEMA, is that “few, if any, consumers understand that not all USB ports are ‘created equal’”. In fact, USB ports come in an array of specifications, so even if the vape pen manufacturer strongly recommends a certain USB port, it will be tough for the user to comply.

“As a result, plugging an e-cigarette into a USB port or power adapter not supplied by the manufacturer may subject the battery to higher current than is safe, leading to thermal runaway that results in an explosion and/or fire,” states the report.

Naturally, while it’s important for users to stick to manufacturer instructions, it may also be cause for vape pen creators to step away from USB charging styles.

Other problems with charging come down to users purchasing off-brand or non-compliant batteries or battery chargers for their devices. As previously discussed, this can be a disaster waiting to happen as the wrong charger may have the wrong voltage for your device.

It’s also important to avoid charging for extended periods of time for the exact same reasons as you shouldn’t leave your mobile phone charging overnight- as these often come with the same lithium-ion style batteries.

If you have any doubts or questions at all about your batteries, talk to your manufacturer, supplier, or local vape shop about the best practices for looking after your devices.

The important thing to remember is that thousands of vapers use pens and other devices every day without anything more upsetting happen than a flat battery or empty tank, as despite the high level of media attention they receive, vaping explosions are extremely rare.


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