Senator: Regulators Should Investigate E-Cigarette Explosions, Issue Recalls

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

Despite their popularity, e-cigarettes are a “ticking time bomb” that should be more closely investigated by federal regulators and recalled if necessary, according to New York Senator Chuck Schumer. 

Schumer on Sunday urged the Food and Drug Administration, as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in a letter to use their powers to take immediate steps to protect consumers from “potentially dangerous electronic cigarettes” that could explode.

Citing recent FDA and media reports of an increase in explosions of e-cigarette batteries, Schumer said the agencies should take a hard look at issuing recalls on e-cigarette devices that have caught fire and exploded.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and that seems to be the case–again and again–for many popular e-cigarettes that have injured dozens of people,” Schumer said during a press conference Sunday. “With any other product, serious action would have been taken — and e-cigarettes should be no exception.”

Schumer says that despite an FDA report that detailed at least 92 exploding e-cigarette incidents since 2009, no recalls have been issued. Of those reports, 45 incidents injured 47 people and 67 incidents involved property damage beyond the product.

“It’s radio silence from both the industry and the feds, so that’s why I’m sounding the alarm,” he said. “The CPSC and FDA should investigate and determine which e-cigarette batteries and devices are the most volatile, and require a recall to make sure these explosions stop.”

The lawmaker says that incidents such as one in which a 24-year-old New York man suffered second-degree burns on his thigh and right hand could be prevented if regulators used their power under the FDA’s recently finalized rules giving it authority to regulate e-cigarettes.

Under the rules, device functionality — which would include the batteries used inside e-cigarettes — would fall to the FDA authority.

Additionally, he says, because the CPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of consumer products, it should use that authority to immediately investigate and review injury data to determine whether there is a pattern of injury that would require a product recall, and then issue any necessary recalls.

“Until the ultimate cause of these hazardous events has been identifying and rectified, the FDA and CPSC must consider an appropriate response to prevent continued harm to consumers,” Schumer wrote.

A rep for the FDA tells Newsday that it is looking into e-cigarettes to evaluate components including battery ”amperage, voltage, wattage, and type” among other issues.

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