Exploding Laptops and Cell Phones are a Real Thing: Should You Be Worried?



An exploding laptop or cell phone is something you might read about in the news, but just how real is the danger to you or your family? According to recent reports, the danger is very real. From improper disposal to product design flaws, lithium ion batteries remain powerful hazards long after they’ve outlived your phone. A simple contact with metal produces enough spark to ignite a fire, and in some cases, can even cause explosions. It is important for anyone who comes in contact with lithium ion batteries regularly to understand the dangers.

Lithium Ion Battery Uses


The most common uses for lithium ion batteries are portable electronic devices. While more expensive than alkaline batteries, lithium batteries have a much longer lifespan. Sony introduced the first lithium rechargeable batteries in 1991. The race to produce smaller batteries with more energy at cheaper prices led to a booming battery industry. Industry experts predict the lithium ion battery industry to reach $93.1 billion by 2025.

The Dangers


Understanding the danger requires understanding the technology behind the battery. The only protection against short circuiting is a thin piece of polypropylene inside the battery. It is the polypropylene’s job to keep the electrodes from touching. If the electrodes do touch one another, the battery becomes hot; this can lead to ignition of flammable electrolytes within that combust upon contact with heat and oxygen. Exposure can result in severe burns to the user.

In June of 2016, Hewlett Packard (HP) recalled 50,000 computers due to seven reports of battery packs overheating, melting, and charring. There were four reports of property damage, totaling about $4,000 in damages. From laptops to cell phones, the portable electronics industry is facing challenges in meeting consumer demands for strong battery life while balancing the demand for user safety.

Fires and Explosions


In 2017, 65 percent of waste facility fires in California started with lithium-ion batteries. Consumers frequently dispose of old batteries through the trash; while the battery no longer powers their electronic devices, it is still highly susceptible to combustion through accidental tampering or exposure to heat, Used lithium ion batteries carry enough charge to create a spark if the battery terminal touches something metallic, like the side of a trash truck or nearby refuse.

The sparks can create fires, especially when the batteries ignite highly-flammable material such as paper. If employees compact the trash in the truck, an explosion is possible. A recycling facility in Queens, New York City, experienced a five-alarm fire in March of 2018 due to an improperly tossed lithium-ion battery. The fire burned for two days, resulting in the closure of four of the Long Island Railroad’s branches for several hours.

The problem has become such an issue in California that the state created a public service campaign. The goal is to make consumers aware of the dangers when it comes to the improperly disposure of their lithium-ion batteries. Industry experts encourage people to dispose of their batteries at locations such as Best Buy, Home Depot, or Lowe’s, for example, all of which have dedicated battery recycling programs. As an added safety precaution, place the battery in a plastic storage bag that zips shut in order to avoid accidental contact with metal during transport.

Why Are Batteries Still Exploding?


Advances in consumer technology can quickly outpace safety measures as new products are rushed to market. Lithium ion batteries, however, have been a consumer mainstay for several years; with all of the improvements to lithium batteries in the interim, why do they remain dangerous? Here are just a few reasons laptop and cell phone batteries are still potential hazards:


1. Pressure and Competition


One example of industry pressure and competition leading to unsafe products comes courtesy of the hoverboard fires. The first hoverboards on the market were expensive; cheap competing models and knockoffs followed, resulting in inferior internal parts, placing users at serious risk of injury. Manufacturers are eager to meet the consumer demand for new products, often sacrificing safety in return. Consumers, on the other hand, want more powerful batteries, smaller devices, and cheaper prices. In many cases, it isn’t until serious injury occurs that consumers begin to re-think the cost of low-priced, rapidly-developed products.

2. Cheap Chargers


For many consumers, the battery level on our phone rules our daily life. Seeing a low battery message is enough to make the heart race; accordingly, the need for constant recharging leads many consumers to invest in cheap, low-quality charging cables. The problem with cheap phone chargers, however, is that the low price is typically a result of low quality control practices and cheap technology. Many cheap chargers feature substandard parts or insulation, and a lack of adequate testing before sale. The results are possible electrocution, explosion, or fire.

3. Design Flaws


Packing a potent energy source into a small package can contribute to battery issues. Ambient heat from nearby components and/or a lack of thermal management incorporated into the battery design can result in unsafe working temperatures. Similar to above, cheap, poorly-made aftermarket batteries are now beginning to flood online retailers; for wary consumers, paying a little more for an OEM battery from a reputable manufacturer may make the difference between a smooth-running gadget and a potential hazard in your pocket.

Product Liability Lawyers, Clearwater, Florida


Lithium ion batteries are a part of our everyday lives. The batteries are incredibly efficient at keeping our electronics charged. We rely on them to work and communicate. While it is our responsibility as consumers to properly dispose of our batteries, it is also the industry’s responsibility to create products safe for consumers. The rush to develop new technology at the expense of user safety creates a dangerous marketplace for consumers.

If you or a loved one have experienced burns or other injuries as a result of a lithium ion battery fire, call at (727) 451-6900 for a free consultation with one of our skilled personal injury associates, or contact us online.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/premises-liability-attorneys/

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