Keep Our Families Safe

Cellphone Explosions

As Curtis Sathre described it, it was like a bomb going off. Next to him, his 13-year-old son Michael stood there stunned, ears ringing, his hand gushing blood, and his body covered in black ash.
But there was still more carnage. Fragments from the explosion hit Curtis between the eyes and some even lodged in the ceiling of his family’s Oceanside, California, home.
But this was no terrorist attack. Instead, Michael’s cellphone had exploded.
Over the past two years, federal safety officials have received 83 reports of cellphones exploding or catching on fire. The main cause of these incidents is usually incompatible, faulty or counterfeit batteries or chargers. Among the dozens of injuries that have been reported are burns to the face, neck, leg and hip areas.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is providing safety tips for cellphone users to avoid similar accidents and has stepped up its oversight of the wireless industry. The CPSC is working with companies to create better battery standards, but in the meantime here are some safety tips you should follow:
  • Do not allow your phone’s battery to come in contact with metal, such as keys or coins.
  • Do not expose the battery to water or to extreme temperatures.
  • Avoid crushing or dropping the battery.
  • Ensure that both your battery and the charger are compatible with the phone model.
  • Only buy parts for your phone from reputable sources, such as authorized dealers.
          (Source: CPSC, The Associated Press)
As noted above most fires and explosions are caused by counterfeit batteries. However, some consumer advocates maintain that the problem is far more serious than a few bad batteries entering the market. Instead, they point to the increasing pressure to put more and more features on phones and to the additional strain those new features place on both the device and the battery.
“If you’re cramming more and more power in a small space, what you’re making is a small bomb,” said Carl Hilliard, who heads the California-based Wireless Consumers Alliance. His organization tracks cellphone fires and explosions.
The CPSC is trying to determine if improved heat vents on batteries will improve phone safety. According to a CPSC spokesperson, temperatures as high as 600 degrees have been recorded.
Since January, there have been three battery recalls, one from Verizon and two from Kyocera Wireless Corp. The companies cited slipping manufacturer standards, and the infiltration of counterfeit batteries into the supply chain as the causes for the recalls.
Members of the wireless industry are working to address problems encountered beyond their supply lines, such as creating voluntary design and performance standards for all batteries.
In the meantime, the safest thing you can do is purchase phone batteries directly from the phone companies.