Teen Injured By Exploding E-Cigarette

By Paul Gaita 06/25/19

The e-cigarette explosion caused extensive wounds to the young man's mouth, including a broken lower jaw and missing teeth.

Image: 
teen using an e-cigarette

A 17-year-old boy suffered severe facial injuries, including a broken jaw, when an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth.

The incident and the extent of his injuries were detailed in a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine and penned by the pediatric trauma surgeon who treated him after the explosion.

While incidents of e-cigarettes or "vapes" exploding are rare, they can cause serious injuries, and two fatalities have been reported as the result of such an explosion.

According to coverage of the report by Live Science, the explosion, which took place in March 2018, required the teenager to be sent more than 200 miles from his home in Ely, Nevada to an emergency room in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was treated by the report's co-author Dr. Katie Russell, a pediatric trauma surgeon at the University of Utah and Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City. The boy had suffered extensive wounds to his mouth, as well as several missing teeth and a broken lower jaw.

Russell and other doctors had to remove several additional teeth from the boy's mouth because their sockets had been irreparably damaged. A dental plate was installed under his lower gums to stabilize his jawbone, and his jaw was wired shut for six weeks to allow his mouth to close properly.

Russell told Live Science that she and her colleagues published the report because they had been shocked by the extent of the damage caused by the explosion.

"When I met this patient, I had no idea that a vape pen could do this," she said. "It takes a lot of force to break your jaw."

According to a report issued by "Tobacco Control," an estimated 2,035 burn and explosion injuries from e-cigarette use were reported by U.S. hospital emergency rooms between 2015 and 2017.

Since the event reported in the case study, more explosions have been reported, including an incident in January 2019 when a 24-year-old Texas resident died after a metal shard from an exploding vape entered his neck and severed an artery.

The exact reason for the explosion has yet to be determined, but as the Times reported, various sources have suggested that the lithium-ion battery used in vape products can overheat to the point of explosion.

A 2017 report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency noted that such batteries "are not a safe source of energy for such devices," while a blog post from the Massachusetts General Hospital Research Institute said that vaping devices that employ an "open system" – which include a rechargeable battery with reservoirs that are filled with e-liquid – are less safe than ones with closed systems, which use pre-filled cartridges that attach to a rechargeable battery, or ones that can't be recharged.

The Food and Drug Administration offered a list of safety suggestions for e-cigarette users, including the use of devices with safety features, keeping loose batteries away from metal objects (to prevent an accidental charge), replacing wet or damaged batteries, and keeping vape devices away from extreme heat or cold.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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