BREAKING NEWS Franklin County parents charged with manslaughter for toddler’s death Full Story
SEVERE WX : Heat Advisory View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

This teen's vape exploded, shattering his jaw

The 17-year-old traveled 250 miles with a bloody mouth, broken teeth and a hole in his jaw, trekking from a small town in Nevada to a pediatric hospital in U...

Posted: Jun 19, 2019 9:53 PM
Updated: Jun 20, 2019 12:15 AM

The 17-year-old traveled 250 miles with a bloody mouth, broken teeth and a hole in his jaw, trekking from a small town in Nevada to a pediatric hospital in Utah with his mother. There, doctors rushed him into surgery, working to reconstruct and repair shattered bone.

What he told doctors shocked them: The boy was vaping when, without warning, his e-cigarette exploded in his face. The freak accident, described in a case study published Wednesday, is just one of thousands in recent years.

'People need to know before they buy these devices that there's a possibility they're going to blow up in your pocket, in your face,' said Dr. Katie Russell, the trauma medical director at Primary Children's Hospital who first treated the boy.

It's unclear what type of e-cigarette was involved in the incident.

Thousands of explosions and fires

One study published in 2018 estimated that more than 2,000 e-cigarette explosion and burn injuries sent users to US hospital emergency departments from 2015 to 2017. But few are aware of just how serious the incidents can be.

The teen from Nevada said he had no idea his vape could explode, according to Russell. He repeated the line over and over again in the emergency room, she remembers, and he was still 'pretty freaked out' hours after the explosion.

'At that time, in my career, I had never seen this. I never heard of this as a possibility' said Russell, who described the boy's injuries in the New England Journal of Medicine.

'I just wanted to get this out there so other people could know that this was possible,' she added.

The boy Russell treated was 'a tough kid,' she said, and he healed well. But others have been less fortunate.

Two dead, others injured in e-cig explosions

In February, a Texas man died after his e-cigarette exploded and shrapnel tore through his carotid artery. Part of the device remained lodged in the man's throat at the hospital, according to his family.

About a year ago, a Florida man was also found dead after his e-cigarette exploded during use, sending a projectile into his head. Both cases involved 'mechanical mods,' larger vaporizers that have more powerful batteries than many typical devices.

Both deaths were in adults, but numerous teenagers have reported burns from similar e-cigarette explosions. The injuries have mounted as experts warn of an 'epidemic' of teen vaping, with almost 40% of 12th-graders using the devices, according to a report released last year.

One teen in Oregon nearly lost his eye when his vape exploded two years ago, according to CNN affiliate KYTV. Another 17-year-old told CNN affiliate KNXV in 2016 that 'it was like [a] bomb going off' before her clothes caught on fire and an e-cigarette explosion left her with burns across her chest, arms and hands.

In one case from 2017, a 14-year-old girl was burned when an e-cigarette exploded in a nearby college student's pocket while she was on a Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios. A year earlier, another 14-year-old was blinded after an e-cigarette exploded in a Brooklyn mall, according to CNN affiliate WPIX.

'Blast injuries' and skin grafts

While experts and advocacy groups have long raised questions about the health effects of vaping, the risk of explosions and fires has received less attention. Some researchers, though, have sounded alarms.

In a 2016 letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors at the University of Washington Medical Center described 15 patients who had suffered from e-cigarette explosions in less than a year.

Most accidents involved flame burns, and almost 30% of patients endured 'blast injuries' that led to 'tooth loss, traumatic tattooing, and extensive loss of soft tissue.' The flame burns required wound care and skin grafts, the doctors wrote.

They added that 'e-cigarettes remain largely unregulated' and warned that although 'these incidents were previously thought to be isolated events, the injuries among our 15 patients add to growing evidence that e-cigarettes are a public safety concern that demands increased regulation as well as design changes to improve safety.'

FDA 'concerned' but doesn't mandate e-cig recalls

Industry groups remain wary of regulation, arguing instead that manufacturers need the freedom to easily make changes to -- and improve -- their products. 'We need to make sure that we're not going to be regulated out of business,' said Ray Story, the founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association.

'The industry can always do more,' Story said, but he blamed consumers for some of the accidents. While batteries may explode, he said, 'a lot of that happens because of the failure of the consumer to actually charge those batteries properly.'

Last year, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company initiated a voluntary recall of 2.6 million power units for fire risk, but the FDA -- which has regulatory jurisdiction over e-cigarettes -- has not mandated any e-cigarette recalls in response to the recent explosions.

The agency said in a statement that it was 'concerned' about 'overheating and exploding batteries.' It recommended that consumers consider 'using devices with safety features, preventing loose batteries from contact with metal objects, using the correct charger and not charging [a] battery overnight or [leaving] it charging unattended.'

The FDA also launched a website titled 'Tips to Help Avoid 'Vape' Battery Explosions,' but Russell, who treated the Nevada teenager, believes many users aren't even aware that e-cigarettes can explode -- meaning they don't seek out resources on battery safety.

'A pack of cigarettes says this can kill you,' Russell said. While e-cigarettes warn that nicotine is addictive, they seem to offer little information on battery risk, she said.

The safest option, according to Russell, may be to avoid vaping altogether. 'The mom actually used one of these devices too,' she said. 'After this, they all stopped.'

Huntsville
Few Clouds
93° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 101°
Florence
Clear
93° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 99°
Fayetteville
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 95°
Decatur
Clear
92° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 99°
Scottsboro
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 102°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 99390

Reported Deaths: 1733
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13109243
Mobile9947207
Montgomery6835148
Madison537834
Tuscaloosa421373
Unassigned359961
Baldwin354425
Shelby328335
Marshall316736
Lee267845
Morgan239318
Etowah212131
DeKalb181913
Calhoun178414
Elmore172338
Walker152664
Houston139812
Russell13682
St. Clair133817
Limestone133313
Dallas132323
Franklin127420
Cullman122512
Colbert118113
Autauga116921
Lauderdale116719
Escambia108217
Talladega102614
Jackson9894
Tallapoosa85579
Chambers84138
Dale83424
Blount8004
Chilton7926
Butler76436
Coffee7616
Covington73520
Pike7097
Clarke6629
Barbour5755
Marion57424
Lowndes57224
Marengo55215
Hale47626
Bullock46411
Winston45311
Perry4424
Bibb4385
Wilcox42910
Monroe4214
Randolph40110
Pickens4009
Conecuh39310
Washington39112
Sumter36018
Lawrence3491
Macon33514
Crenshaw3185
Choctaw28312
Cherokee2737
Henry2633
Geneva2611
Clay2585
Greene25111
Lamar2222
Fayette2075
Cleburne1271
Coosa1012
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 122712

Reported Deaths: 1223
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby23238304
Davidson20620213
Rutherford655354
Hamilton613253
Knox460039
Williamson355125
Sumner343373
Unassigned316110
Out of TN292414
Wilson229023
Bradley194312
Montgomery193913
Sevier18867
Putnam176718
Trousdale15836
Robertson155819
Hamblen139614
Blount130311
Maury12577
Washington12522
Tipton120810
Madison110217
Sullivan99414
Bedford92811
Hardeman91717
Macon86013
Lake7870
Loudon7423
Gibson7175
Bledsoe7051
Fayette6988
Dickson6912
Anderson6846
Dyer6508
Cheatham5957
Henderson5932
Jefferson5684
Obion5654
Lawrence5626
McMinn54720
Coffee5453
Rhea5362
Warren5304
Carter5226
Lauderdale5088
Haywood5006
Greene4928
Cocke4752
Roane4752
Hawkins4727
Hardin4718
Cumberland4576
Smith4524
Weakley4514
Monroe4449
Giles38113
McNairy3785
DeKalb3602
Franklin3304
Carroll3143
Lincoln3021
Marshall3013
White2935
Henry2880
Johnson2800
Claiborne2720
Crockett2695
Hickman2680
Campbell2481
Wayne2262
Marion2244
Chester2212
Decatur2133
Polk2063
Grainger1970
Overton1951
Unicoi1660
Union1600
Benton1551
Cannon1470
Jackson1271
Humphreys1243
Morgan1221
Scott1190
Grundy1142
Meigs1060
Sequatchie1050
Fentress930
Perry810
Hancock802
Clay760
Lewis751
Stewart740
Moore630
Houston590
Van Buren360
Pickett351

Community Events