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Use caution when purchasing lithium-ion batteries

Lithium-ion batteries

Vaping or using electronic cigarettes has become very popular in the past few years, but did you know the batteries in these products can become a burn danger?

The batteries, usually lithium-ion batteries, have recently been in the news due to an increase in burn injuries associated with them.

I recently attended the American Burn Association conference and burn centers across the country have reported a rise in burns related to these batteries which are often used in electronic cigarettes, smartphones, fitness trackers and even some remote control toys. 

What’s scary is that in the United States we have methods of looking at the manufacturing process of the batteries that are made here, but millions of lithium-ion batteries are imported each year and are not checked with the same standards we have here in the U.S. This is especially concerning with so many people buying things online with no way to check the safety of the batteries. 

The main burn concern with lithium-ion batteries is that they are alkaline, and alkaline burns can be worse than acid burns. When acid burns the skin, it creates a coagulation or scab which stops the skin destruction from the burn. Alkaline chemicals are able to penetrate the skin and damage the deeper layers of tissue. Even if you attempt to wash the chemical off the skin, it can continue to burn. 

Those with serious alkaline burns may need skin grafting and longer hospital stays because it’s not safe to graft over an area of the body until you’re sure the injury to the skin has stopped which can be difficult with an alkaline burn.

Some of the injuries we’ve seen are from people carrying extra e-cigarette batteries in their pants pocket. We’ve also seen people who have been in the processing of smoking an e-cigarette when the battery exploded.

By carrying the extra batteries in pants pockets, the batteries can rub against car keys which cause the batteries to overheat and explode. Luckily there is a little more padding in the upper thigh area of the body due to body fat and clothing but we still see severe burns in this area which often require skin grafting.  

If you use electronic items with these types of batteries, be sure they are stored at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. If they get overheated, they can explode.

Additionally if you are going to carry extra batteries for vaping, be sure to carry them in a purse or bag, making sure they are not bumping up against keys or other items.

About Sarah Fischer MSN RN

Sarah Fischer, MSN, RN, is the Burn Program coordinator for Via Christi Regional Burn Center in Wichita, Kansas.