Lithium Battery Explosion Shuts Down Orlando Airport
A lithium battery explosion shut down MCO International Airport in Orlando, Florida for several hours on Friday, November 10, 2017. The battery exploded in a backpack carrying a traveler’s camera. Startled would-be passengers scattered as security personnel, mistakenly believing the noise was a gun shot, reportedly told them to take cover.
Many people rushed back through security checkpoints. Others hid in nearby restaurants and stores. One woman reported that she and other travelers huddled on the floor of a restaurant for 20 minutes, unsure whether the noise was a gun shot. Travelers took to social media to report the chaos and ensuing confusion as well as to seek information.
As evidenced in the airport incident, lithium batteries can spontaneously cause explosions. If an exploding lithium battery can be mistaken for a gunshot by trained security and airport personnel – are e-cigarettes that use similar batteries as safe as manufacturers and distributors claim?
In fact, e-cigarettes using lithium batteries spark their own unique explosion dangers.
Battery failures in e-cigs generate increased pressure that “shoots” the batteries out of the tube like “rockets.” This is different from other products like laptops, which enclose batteries in thick plastic housings, or cell phones, which use flat batteries. If someone is using an e-cigarette when it explodes, those “rockets” can shoot into the body or mouth of the victim, causing severe injuries.
E-cig manufacturers downplay the risk of explosions of the lithium batteries inside their products. When an e-cigarette explodes in a person’s pocket – or mouth – devastating injuries can result. In one incident, a lithium ion battery powering a victim’s e-cigarette exploded in his pocket. He suffered third-degree burns. Another victim reportedly lost seven teeth and suffered burns when an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth.
FEMA reports that from January 2009 to December 31, 2016, 195 e-cigarette fire and explosion incidents occurred in the United States; 133 acute injuries were reported.
If a lithium battery explosion was intense enough to shut down an airport — should you keep e-cigarettes in your pocket — or put them in your mouth?