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‘E-cig’ explosions become cause for concern

Some may consider electronic cigarettes a safer alternative to smoking, but local experts say they have the potential of being dangerous.

These “e-cigs” have made headlines recently for randomly exploding and catching fire. Earlier this month, a 15-year-old in California lost several teeth when his e-cig exploded while he was using it.

Ike Mullen, manager of Aqueous Vapor in St. Joseph, said the reason that this happens because of the “LiPo” (lithium polymer) batteries that many e-cigs require.

“They are hard to take care of, hard to maintain and … they’re not safe, in my opinion,” Mullen said.

Kyle Jackson, owner of Interstate All Battery Center, said lithium batteries are more prone to malfunctions because of how flammable lithium is.

But he said people shouldn’t be afraid to use lithium batteries, because most cases of explosions or fires happen because people buy poor-quality batteries.

“A lot of the problems we see are really due to the fact (that) they’re using a low quality ‘LiPo’ battery,” Jackson said.

Jackson also said there are “low drain and high drain” batteries. A product like an e-cigarette requires a high-drain battery in order to not overwork it. He also said people using a cheap charger or plugging into a device like a laptop instead of a wall outlet can cause the batteries to overheat.

According to a 2014 report released by the U.S. Fire Administration, 80 percent of e-cig malfunctions happened during charging and “non-approved power adapters appear(ed) to be responsible for most of the incidents involving e-cigarettes.”

Mullen said anyone selling e-cigarettes should be responsible for making sure their customer is well informed about the product they are buying.

“As a shop owner, or a shop manager, you should let the people know how to take care of them,” he said, “because if you don’t take care of them there could be a possibility that they could blow up.”

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