A 38-year-old man in Florida was killed when his vape pen exploded, sending projectiles into his head and causing a small fire in his house, in what is believed to be one of the first deaths from an e-cigarette explosion.
Tallmadge D'Elia was found May 5 in the burning bedroom of his family's home in St. Petersburg, according to the Tampa Bay Times. An autopsy report released this week blamed a vape pen explosion for his death, according to local news media outlets. The cause of death was listed as "projectile wound of head" – the pen exploded into pieces, at least two of which were sent into his head, the report said – and he suffered burns on about 80 percent of his body.
The "mod"-type pen, distributed by Smok-E Mountain, is manufactured in the Philippines, according to a company Facebook page, the Times reported. The Facebook page is not currently publicly accessible.
According to a report from the U.S. Fire Administration (part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency), there were at least 195 incidents in which an electronic cigarette exploded or caught fire from 2009 through 2016, resulting in 133 injuries, 38 of which were severe. But there were no recorded deaths in the study's period.
The explosions usually occur suddenly, the report found, "and are accompanied by loud noise, a flash of light, smoke, flames, and often vigorous ejection of the battery and other parts."
More than half of the total incidents, 128, included fires started on nearby objects.
The report blamed the incidents on the prevalence of lithium-ion batteries in the products. "No other consumer product places a battery with a known explosion hazard such as this in such close proximity to the human body," it said. "It is this intimate contact between the body and the battery that is most responsible for the severity of the injuries that have been seen. While the failure rate of the lithium-ion batteries is very small, the consequences of a failure, as we have seen, can be severe and life-altering for the consumer."
A representative from Smok-E Mountain told Tampa TV station WFTS that it believed the problem to be an issue with the device's atomizer or battery, and not the device itself.
The health effects related to the ingestion of e-cigarette vapor are still being studied by government agencies.
There are no regulations that apply to the safety of the electronic mechanics or batteries of e-cigarettes, the U.S. Fire Administration report noted, though they are being considered by the Food and Drug Administration.