The argument over whether or not electronic cigarettes are dangerous just took a weird turn. An autopsy has confirmed that Florida man Tallmadge D’Elia may have been the very first death caused by an exploding vape pen.
According to TMJ4, authorities began investigating the circumstances surrounding the Florida man’s death after he was found dead in his home. The fire alarm had gone off because the exploding electronic cigarette had set fire to the home. When police officers arrived at the scene, they found D’Elia with burns covering 80 percent of his body and a wound to the top of his lip area.
Bill Pellan, director of investigations at the Pinellas County Medical Examiner’s Office, said the Florida man’s death was ruled accidental because the cause of death was a projectile wound to the head. According to ABC Local 10, two pieces of the vape pen became projectiles when the e-cigarette exploded. The mouthpiece of the vape pen was found lodged in D’Elia’s brain.
E-cigarettes operate by heating a liquid that contains a mix of nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. Many electronic cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, but some owners like to use larger devices such as tank systems or “mods.” In this case, the autopsy noted that D’Elia was using a “mod” type e-cigarette manufactured by Smok-E Mountain.
Reports do not indicate what caused this particular e-cig explosion, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration claims that e-cigarette explosion incidents can be related to problems with the battery in a vaping pen. D’Elia was apparently using a higher wattage vaping pen that came packaged with a more powerful battery.
“The two major causes of dramatic failures with the larger units are overcharging of the battery and then the shorting of the battery,” said Thomas Kiklas, the chief financial officer of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association. “Lithium-ion batteries fail in other devices as well, but in a laptop, it’s on your lap. In this case, with an e-vapor product, it’s close to the face.”
There have been other cases of exploding e-cigarettes, but none of them were fatal. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that “there were 195 separate e-cigarette fire and explosion incidents in the United States reported by the media between 2009 and 2016.”