Exploding e-cigarette blows out part of teenager’s jaw and teeth

This graphic image shows the terrible damage that can be caused when an e-cigarette explodes in someone’s mouth.

There have been several cases of lithium-ion batteries which power e-cigarettes catching fire in a phenomenon known as thermal runaway and then exploding in people’s mouths.

When this happens one cell overheating in a lithium ion battery can produce enough heat to cause adjacent cells to overheat. This can cause a lithium battery fire to flare or even explode.

The New York Times reveals that one victim was 17-year-old Austin Burton – and his mum Kailani recalls hearing a loud pop and then her son running into the living room at their Nevada home holding his bloodied jaw.

She said: “He was bleeding really bad. It looked like a hole in his chin.”

Austin needed specialist surgery to repair the damage and the case has just been published in The New England Journal of Medicine to warn the public about the dangers of vaping.

Surgeon Dr Katie Russell, director of the trauma centre at the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City which treated Austin said: “I had no idea that these vape pens could blow up and cause serious injury. This technology hit the market by storm and people are not aware but the fact is they can burn you, they can explode in your pocket, they can explode in your face. I think there’s a health concern.”

Austin suffered a major fracture of his lower jaw - including about a 2cm piece that had exploded and was missing - and he was also missing several teeth. The surgeons had to put a plate under his gum.

The Food and Drug Administration in the USA has expressed its worries about e-cigarette and other vaping device injuries from overheating and exploding batteries. It is also exploring product standards to reduce battery problems.

 The agency does not tally the number of e-cigarette explosions or similar incidents but a feature in medical journal BMJ using data from several federal agencies found there were roughly 2,035 e-cigarette explosion and burn injuries in the United States between 2015 and 2017.

The rise in lithium battery fires is posing a particular problem in the confined space of passenger aircraft which is why cabin crew now often include in the safety briefing a warning that if passengers lose their mobile phones down seats they should alert the staff and not try to retrieve it themselves. If they do, the phone could get crushed in the seat mechanism, sparking a thermal runaway fire.

One way to tackle such incidents is to use an AvSax fire containment bag which can deal with fires in personal electronic devices and are now carried on more than 15,373 aircraft operated by 75 airline companies across the world – including some of the biggest and best-known.

AvSax  – which won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2018 - has been used 30 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017. Deployment is so effective that extremely expensive diversions to alternate airports are avoided.