The warning signs your cell phone may explode

FILE - This Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, file photo shows a damaged Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on a table in Richmond, Va., after it caught fire earlier in the day. (Shawn L. Minter via AP, File)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (WPEC) - They are in our television remote controls, cell phones, laptops, fitness bands and more.

Rechargeable batteries are a part of our daily lives, and more and more, they are becoming a part of our newscasts.

CBS12 investigated the increase in recalls, explosions and dangers of rechargeable batteries before they go boom.


A toddler dies in a house fire in Pennsylvania after a hoverboard explodes.

A laptop catches fire in New York, leaving the owner with severe chemical burns.

And a cell phone explodes in a 10-year-old's pocket while at school here in Florida.

All blamed on rechargeable batteries.

Florida 21-year-old Evan Spahlinger knows the dangers firsthand.

"It was like a fire extinguisher being shot in my face," he said.

Spahlinger was badly burned by an exploding rechargeable battery from an e-cigarette.

He suffered third-degree burns and spent a week in the intensive care unit.

“I was sort of gasping for air. Everything I was spitting out was black, like I was spitting up blood," he said.

But his horror story is just one of many.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there have been 49 different recalls of lithium-ion batteries since 2012. That totals more than 4.2 million products pulled.


Boca Raton Fire Inspector Bob Lemons knows exactly what goes wrong with these batteries.

"A battery is essentially turning a chemical reaction into electrical energy. That heat has no place to go. So, it builds up and what can happen is you end up with a [phenomenon] called 'Thermal Runaway,'" he said.

And the results can be deadly.

There have been a least eight deaths reported worldwide due to battery fires or explosions.

Last year, Hewlett-Packard expanded its Notebook battery recall to more than 101,000.

Samsung recalled 1,920,927 Galaxy Note 7 smartphones over a fire risk.

And half a million hoverboards were recalled due to overheating and exploding.

"The chemical reaction feeds back on itself, and it's getting hotter and hotter and eventually we have the failures," said Lemons.

So, who's regulating rechargeable batteries?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is attempting to address the issue with enforcement and import surveillance.

But Lemons said, "A lot of times, some of these products are coming in from places that don't have the quality control that we're used to."

The bottom line is no government agency is keeping track of the possible hazards rechargeable batteries pose.


The easiest way to tell if your phone is too hot is by putting your hand to your head and the other hand on your cell phone. If the cell phone is hotter, it’s too hot. Take the battery out and let the battery cells cool down.

Officials say anytime you recharge a device, make sure it's on an open surface away from other combustibles.

Make sure the heat generated from the source has ample time to dissipate from the area, and once it's fully recharged, never leave your device plugged in for an extended period of time.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off