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 20, 2019 8:59 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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 52037

Reported Deaths: 2762
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12111693
Lake5677249
Elkhart366260
Allen2971134
St. Joseph221169
Hamilton1735101
Cass16489
Hendricks1470100
Johnson1351118
Porter84938
Vanderburgh8016
Tippecanoe7859
Clark71944
Madison68164
LaPorte62928
Howard61058
Bartholomew60545
Kosciusko5844
Marshall57011
Noble52428
Boone49244
LaGrange48710
Delaware48152
Jackson4793
Hancock47436
Shelby46025
Floyd41844
Monroe36128
Morgan34431
Grant32226
Dubois3196
Henry30318
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27810
Dearborn27123
Warrick26829
Vigo2618
Decatur25732
Lawrence25325
Harrison21822
Greene19932
Miami1942
Jennings17912
Putnam1748
DeKalb1694
Scott1659
Wayne1596
Daviess15117
Perry15110
Steuben1402
Orange13823
Jasper1362
Ripley1357
Franklin1288
Gibson1282
Wabash1193
Carroll1142
Starke1093
Fayette1087
Whitley1086
Newton10110
Huntington942
Jefferson872
Wells831
Randolph804
Fulton761
Jay720
Knox710
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Posey640
Rush623
Spencer591
Owen531
Benton510
Sullivan511
Adams491
Brown441
Blackford402
Fountain362
Crawford330
Tipton331
Switzerland320
Parke280
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike120
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 66853

Reported Deaths: 3064
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin12301449
Cuyahoga9359399
Hamilton7046208
Lucas3079306
Marion275539
Montgomery257936
Summit2382209
Pickaway222942
Mahoning1971239
Butler189747
Columbiana139560
Stark1244116
Lorain118970
Trumbull106678
Warren101826
Clark82010
Delaware76315
Fairfield71917
Lake62723
Tuscarawas62110
Licking60012
Medina59932
Belmont57324
Clermont5157
Miami51431
Wood51051
Portage50960
Ashtabula45244
Geauga43143
Richland3906
Allen38541
Wayne37655
Greene3659
Mercer30410
Erie30122
Holmes2625
Darke26126
Huron2602
Madison2259
Ottawa21724
Athens1921
Sandusky17615
Ross1503
Washington14720
Putnam14515
Coshocton1434
Crawford1405
Jefferson1272
Morrow1271
Hardin12512
Union1151
Auglaize1124
Muskingum1061
Preble961
Lawrence920
Clinton912
Monroe8917
Hancock871
Hocking839
Guernsey824
Scioto770
Shelby774
Williams772
Carroll713
Logan711
Ashland692
Fulton680
Wyandot665
Brown621
Fayette580
Highland581
Champaign571
Knox571
Defiance553
Van Wert491
Perry481
Seneca442
Henry370
Paulding340
Jackson310
Pike290
Adams282
Vinton232
Gallia211
Noble140
Harrison131
Meigs130
Morgan120
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Angola
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Huntington
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 83°
Decatur
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 82°
Van Wert
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 82°
Storms Late Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events