Doctors see increase in lithium-ion batteries catching fire, cau - KCTV5

Doctors see increase in lithium-ion batteries catching fire, causing irreversible harm

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Local doctors are now seeing an increase in these batteries catching fire and causing irreversible harm. A Lenexa man learned just how powerful the tiny batteries can be after it exploded in his pocket. (Submitted) Local doctors are now seeing an increase in these batteries catching fire and causing irreversible harm. A Lenexa man learned just how powerful the tiny batteries can be after it exploded in his pocket. (Submitted)
LENEXA, KS (KCTV) -

Lithium-ion batteries are in many of the devices you keep in your home or carry with you every day.

They power phones, tablets, computers, hoverboards, electronic cigarettes and even cars.

Local doctors are now seeing an increase in these batteries catching fire and causing irreversible harm. A Lenexa man learned just how powerful the tiny batteries can be after it exploded in his pocket.

Jim Kunz’s injuries are tough to look at. However, doctors say seeing the damage it causes will explain the power that is inside the devices you use, and why it’s important to understand what you’re handling.

While the odds of one exploding are small, it does happen, and there are ways to make sure your batteries are in good shape.

Kunz was at work when his spare battery in his right leg pocket shot off like a roman candle. It blew a hole through his pants and sent him to University of Kansas Health System. It also charred the cash and melted the pen he had in his pocket.

He believes a short was created in the battery by the loose change in his pocket.

“I was just kind of stunned. I didn’t realize they could do that,” Kunz said.

Most people don’t realize the battery’s power. His battery wasn’t attached to his e-cig. It was just a spare he threw in his pocket.

Kunz was left with second-degree burns, a skin graft and a $40,000 medical bill.

“I thought I was careful with them and thought I knew what I was doing,” he explained.

Dr. James Howard, medical director of the burn unit at University of Kansas Health System, said it’s a growing trend. He’s seen about seven patients burned by exploding lithium ion batteries in the past year and a half.

“Unfortunately, the burns can be pretty painful. It charges your nerve endings. One of the problems is they aren’t regulated so there are all different batteries out there. So, some of the quality just isn’t as good as some of the other ones,” he said.

Kunz’s case is a prime example. He tried to contact the company through a couple attorney’s but failed. 

“It’s hard to tell where they come from. They come from overseas and they may be branded by different companies in the states,” he said. 

Kunz said he couldn’t figure out who was to blame or who was at fault.

That’s why battery experts warn that when buying batteries for your phone, e-cig or laptop do not purchase something off brand. You should always use the ones made specifically for your device, and the same concept goes for the charges for your devices too.

Rick Fleenor is a battery expert with Standard Battery Incorporated in Kansas City. He said the problem is it all comes down to size.

“They’re trying to get too much out of the battery. They’re asking too much to happen in too small of a space," Fleenor said.

Kunz said to heed the warning from manufacturers.

“If you’re going to use the lithium ions, know what they are, what they do, and how they work. It happens fast," he said.

Here are what experts say you need to keep in mind:

  • Don’t store a device in a hot car
  • Don’t charge your items unattended
  • Don’t charge your items on a bed, or in your pocket.
  • Keep them away from copper and metal, including loose change.

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