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A Nevada teenager’s jaw was broken and his teeth blown out, a new medical case study noted, after an e-cigarette exploded in the teen’s mouth.
The 17-year-old boy, identified in an NBC report on the case as Austin Adams, was vaping when the device dramatically malfunctioned, forcing him to undergo emergency reconstructive surgery to patch a hole in his jaw.
According to the report, which cited a June 19 case study in The New England Journal of Medicine, the victim was treated at the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City for extensive facial injuries.
“The tissue kind of got vaporized,” pediatric surgeon Dr. Jonathan Skirko told NBC, adding, “I don’t think I’ve seen an e-cigarette explosion like this, though.”
Dr. Katie Russell, a pediatric trauma surgeon who also treated the teenager, was one of the authors of the case study into the shocking incident.
“People need to know before they buy these devices that there’s a possibility they’re going to blow up in your pocket, in your face,” Dr. Russell said, via Fox6.
“At that time, in my career, I had never seen this. I never heard of this as a possibility,” Dr. Russell added. “I just wanted to get this out there so other people could know that this was possible.”
Russell told NBC News the victim had no inkling there was anything wrong with the device and that its meltdown was “totally unexpected.”
— Live Science (@LiveScience) June 19, 2019
‘Defective and Dangerous?’
NBC reported that the brand of e-cigarette the teenager was using was called VGOD. But, according to Johnson Becker, a law firm specializing in explosion and fire-related claims, all manner of e-cigarettes have been linked to hundreds of injuries ranging from burns to life-threatening explosions.
“Injured users across the country have begun to file suit against several different parties involved in the supply chain,” the law office explains on its website. “These lawsuits claim that either the manufacturers, distributors, or retailers of these products, willfully sold them a defective and dangerous device.”
Some of the injuries have occurred while the e-cigarettes were in use, while others when they were simply being kept in pockets.
“This has happened as a result of manufacturers using poorly sourced lithium ion batteries, as well as opting out of using overcharging technology,” the litigators explain.
The U.S. Fire Administration noted in a 2017 report (pdf) that “the shape and construction of electronic cigarettes can make them (more likely than other products with lithium ion batteries) behave like ‘flaming rockets’ when a battery fails.”
“It is clear that these batteries are not a safe source of energy for these devices,” the report notes.
The Federal Aviation Authority has also taken note of the risk of the e-cigarette batteries and issued guidance to mitigate the threat to flight safety.
“These devices are prohibited in checked baggage and may only be carried in the aircraft cabin (in carry-on baggage or on your person),” the FAA notes. “They may not be used or charged on the aircraft.”
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance for manufacturers of tobacco-related products, including e-cigarettes. The agency is calling on companies not only to provide detailed battery information but plans for addressing potential overheating, fire, and explosion.
While the FDA stated in a separate notification that a definitive cause of e-cigarette explosions is not yet clear, batteries may be a factor.
“You may have heard that e-cigarettes, or ‘vapes,’ can explode and seriously injure people. Although they appear rare, these explosions are dangerous. The exact causes of such incidents are not yet clear, but some evidence suggests that battery-related issues may lead to vape explosions.”
A study published in 2018 estimates that between 2015 and 2017, over 2,000 e-cigarette explosion and burn injuries sent users to U.S. hospital emergency departments.
Vape Pen Explosion Kills Texas Man
In a related case, an explosion from a vape pen killed a 24-year-old Texas man, concluded a medical examiner’s report, with the pen firing shrapnel into the victim’s neck, severing a major artery.
William Eric Brown died on Jan. 29 from a stroke caused by the severed artery, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner said, according to local reports.
Brown’s grandmother, Alice Brown, said he was in a car when the deadly incident took place.
“He popped it and it exploded, and that’s when it shot across his mouth,” she told WFAA.
She added the battery melted plastic in her car, which was covered in blood.
The vape pen cut an artery in his neck and stopped blood flow to his brain, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner says.
The 24-year-old managed to get out of the car and find help. He was rushed to the hospital but died two days after being admitted.
“When they X-rayed him, they found the stem, the metal embedded to where the blood flows up to the brain,” the grandmother said. “I miss him already, and knowing he won’t open that door and come through it ever again is the hardest part.”
Simon Veazey contributed to this report.