On Tuesday, a local medical examiner released their report that concluded a 38-year-old man in St. Petersburg, Florida, died due to an explosion in his vape pen that sent two piece of shrapnel into his cranium. According to the Washington Post, it’s believed to be one of the first deaths of its kind.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Tallmadge D’Elia was found by firefighters in his bedroom on May 5. At first, officials were uncertain if the cause of death could be attributed to the burns that covered 80 percent of his body. The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s report lists the official reason for his demise as a “projectile wound of head.”
We’ve seen many vape devices explode over the last couple of years as their popularity has grown. The lithium-ion batteries can be highly volatile, especially in poorly manufactured devices that lack proper battery ventilation. According to the Times, the model that killed D’Elia was distributed by Smok-E Mountain. Its now-deleted Facebook page reportedly claimed the device was manufactured in the Philippines. Vapes by Smok-E Mountain can still be found online, and police say the model in question was a “mod” type. Vapers often alter their devices to achieve a more impressive cloud when they exhale, it’s unclear if the victim’s device had any problems caused by the manufacturer.
The U.S. Fire Administration released a report last July that found at least 195 incidents attributed to vape explosions occurred between 2009 and 2016. Over half of the incidents resulted in nearby objects catching fire, and 133 injuries were recorded. In addition to the sparks, flames, and flashes that we’ve seen in videos, the report says that explosions are often accompanied by a “vigorous ejection of the battery and other parts.”
The USFA report found no deaths that were caused by vape explosions, but a man in Scotland reportedly died in 2014 when his device ignited his oxygen equipment.
Researchers are still undecided on the long-term health effects of vaping. But the Centers for Disease Control lists smoking tobacco as the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S.—if you insist on doing one or the other, vaping is still likely to be your safest bet.