Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is urging airlines to prohibit electronic cigarettes from being brought onto planes via carry-on luggage due to reports of exploding batteries. The move follows recent reports of e-cigarettes exploding and catching on fire on airplanes.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) banned the use of e-cigarettes on commercial flights, and in 2015, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an interim final rule prohibiting passengers from stowing e-cigarettes in checked bags and banned charging such devices while onboard an aircraft. Senator Blumenthal sent letters to numerous airlines, including Alaska, Allegiant Air, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Island Air, JetBlue Airways, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, United, and Virgin America.
Senator Blumenthal also issued a demand that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recall the specific e-cigarette brands that have a history of exploding, and establish safety standards for the rechargeable batteries they use.
What Causes E-Cigarette Batteries to Explode?
While some of the problems with e-cigarettes are obvious: the lack of industry-wide manufacturing standards and testing programs, and misuse by vapers who modify the devices or use incompatible battery chargers, experts have not been able to identify a single reason why e-cigarette batteries explode.
When e-cigarette batteries short out, there’s essentially a surge of heat that causes the flammable electrolyte inside the battery to combust and explode. While well-made lithium ion cells have a relatively small risk of failure, cheaper cells generally have a much greater chance of having a manufacturing defect that increases the likelihood for failure.
Since 2009, the FDA has recorded 134 cases of e-cigarettes exploding, catching fire, or overheating. Earlier this year, the DOT banned passengers from traveling with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and last winter, several airlines prohibited hover boards onboard after explosion and combustibility issues were raised.