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Study uncovers added risk of using electronic cigarettes

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When experts look at whether electronic or "e-cigarettes" are a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, the focus is often on the chemicals in the devices or the nicotine they release.

Now, a recent study shows e-cigarettes can actually be a fire hazard too.

The study looked at the number of emergency department visits for cases of explosions and burn injuries from e-cigarettes.

Researchers found there were more than 2,000 reports of burn injuries to people over a two-year period as a result of handling e-cigarettes.

Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Baruch Fertel did not take part in the study but said the risks were highest when people tried to make their own devices.

“It’s important that people not try to go and construct their own device, or use their own battery that’s left over from a laptop, or from a phone, or something else,” he said. “It’s important that they use the ones that the manufacturer creates, specifically for this purpose, and that have appropriate safety features.” 

Fertel said emergency physicians are seeing more and more instances where people become injured after using batteries that are not appropriate for their e-cigarettes.

He said lithium-ion batteries are prone to overheat and when people buy them on the internet, they may not be approved for an e-cigarette and can overheat or even explode.

Fertel advises against leaving batteries plugged in for a long period of time or overnight, as this can cause them to become dangerously hot. 

He said sometimes reactions can happen if the battery comes in contact with something that it’s not supposed to.

“We’ve seen cases of people keeping an electronic cigarette in their shirt pocket, and it hitting a coin, or their keys, causing a short circuit, and causing a fire,” said Dr. Fertel. 

Fertel said if an e-cigarette device becomes too wet, or damaged, the safest thing to do is to discard it.

Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.