Exploding Cell Phones

By: Betty Sesston
By: Betty Sesston

Dixie Ddriscoll was watching tv last fall when she heard a loud boom in the room where a cell phone was charging.

"I came in and there was flames on the side of the china cabinet and the phone had blown up. The battery just went flying and put a hole in my ceiling."

There are still burn marks on the floor where the cell phone burst into flames. Consumer Reports Tod Marks says few people are aware how dangerous cell phone batteries can be.

The batteries that are used in cell phones are power packed cells that can overheat, expand, explode, and even catch fire if they don't have the proper safety features built into them.

One of the problems a flood of counterfeit batteries. U.S. customs inspectors caught these fakes. They were tipped off by the misspelling. Instead of warning that battery might explode, this one says "esplode" with an s. But often it's hard to tell real batteries from fakes. And even a legitimate battery can be dangerous.

The fact is it can be overcharged, overheat, possibly explode. And if you drop a phone in use, as many people do. You want to back off for a minute, because that contact with the ground could cause an electrical short and an explosion.

Consumer Reports says to ensure cell phone safety follow the charging instructions for the phone keep it away from heat and don't buy cheap batteries. They're likely to be counterfeits. Since Dixie's experience she's a lot more cautious around cell phones.

Consumer Reports says at this point there are no standards for cell phone batteries. But that may change. Meetings are underway to develop voluntary design and performance standards later this year.

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