Boy burned after cell phone battery explodes

7:28 AM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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ROCHESTER, Minn. --  A Rochester middle school student was burned Wednesday and his classroom was evacuated when his cell phone exploded in his pocket.

"We have seen reports and had reports be submitted to the Consumer Products Safety Commission of cell phone batteries bursting and then the entire phone almost exploding, sometimes catching on fire," CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said Thursday evening.

What happens is called thermal runaway.

"Thermal runaway is a domino effect so the battery gets hot and that makes a chemical reaction such that it gets hotter and hotter until gases escape or it explodes," Matt Gray, Technology Director for Clockwork Media Systems explained.

There are common things that can cause this.

Dropping the phone can damage the internal battery and that can cause it to misfire its energy so that is a possibility but you wouldn't always know you have a bad battery until it begins to malfunction, or worst case, it explodes.

This again is extremely rare nowadays.

Wolfson said the CPSC saw many reports about this in 2004-05 but since the batteries have been made more carefully with more safety nets. But clearly, after today's incident, he wants more to be done.

"There needs to be more safety built into those batteries because incidents like what happened to this student should not be happening," Wolfson said.

But even more common a problem is when people replace the cell phone battery with a cheap no name battery or charge the phone with a cheap knock off charger.

Those two choices can do great harm.

"They are made cheaply, they provide power to your battery in an unreliable way and can really affect its health," web developer Lloyd Dalton said.

The CPSC recommends these things when it comes to tips to protect your phone:

  • Don't use chargers or batteries that are not designed to work with your phone and avoid knock off brands. 
  •  Keep your phone away from excessive heat. 
  • Keep the battery's positive and negative connections from crossing. This is typically caused by a piece of metal coming into contact with the battery.

Even more disconcerting is what we have seen as of late with lithium ion batteries on a larger scale.

Boeing's grounded 787 Dreamliner fleet is out of the air because of batteries in those catching fire.

These batteries pack a lot of power, and can bring us so much good, but, if taxed at too high a rate come at a cost no one wants to pay.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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