Southern California

Unregulated Danger? Mom, Toddler Burned by E-Cigarette Explosion

The woman's 18-month-old is still enduring skin graft surgeries and will be permanently disfigured.

Editor’s note: Video contains graphic images of injuries as a result of an e-cigarette explosion. 

A mother and her toddler suffered horrible burns after she says an e-cigarette exploded, and now the family is filing a lawsuit against the store that sold her the device.

Paige Kadella is a Southern California mother who said she was trying to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes to improve her health, so she turned to vaping, or using an e-cigarette.

She says the decision turned into a consumer safety nightmare that’s gone unregulated for too long.

There are lots of studies about lithium ion batteries because of the potential dangers they pose.

From hover boards to cellphones to vaping devices, these small powerful batters have resulted in hundreds of reported injuries, but when it comes to powering e-cigarettes there's no regulation, no laws related to the safety of these batteries.

In September 2016, Kadella and daughter Ashlynn were backseat passengers heading out on a family camping adventure.

"And all of a sudden I hear the crackling noise, so I look down and my purse is on fire," she said. 

Kadella says the lithium ion battery that powered her vaping device exploded into flames.

"I kinda ducked down like this, and just kept screaming for my father in law to pull over," she said.

Kadella says she burned her hands but Ashlynn, only 18 months old, got the worst of it. She suffered burns from the fire and chemical burns to her left hand, arm and ear as her carseat caught fire.

She is still enduring skin graft surgeries and will be permanently disfigured.

"It is a huge problem in the e-cigarette industry," said attorney Greg Bentley, who is representing Kadella. She is suing the Almond Vape and Smoke shop, the retailer where she bought the battery.

"We will eventually find out who it was that wholesaled the product and the manufacturer of the battery," Bentley said."Everybody in the supply chain is accountable for this tragedy."

Bentley says the federal government deserves blame too. Currently there are no regulations, codes or laws that apply to safety for lithium ion batteries or electronics used in e-cigarettes.

That’s despite the hundreds of reported injuries related to overheating, explosions and fires. Bentley said he represents 150 clients who have been injured.

"These are significant injuries that do not need to happen," Bentley said. 

The Food and Drug Administration regulates tobacco and nicotine in e-cigarettes but for the batteries the power them the agency is still working on a set of guidelines to address, "overheating, fire and explosion during operations, charging, storage and transportation."

Underwriters Laboratories, which tests lithium ion batteries, certifies safety standards and suggests the batteries come with warning labels for risk of fire and explosion. Bentley says getting compliance is difficult because it’s a voluntary standard and foreign manufactures don’t always obey it.

"Most of these products don’t have any warnings. Some retailers may say they have a sign next to the cash register or a sign posted on a wall but that’s rinky dink and it’s not sufficient," Bentley said.

Kadella says she knew nothing about the risks of exploding batteries and if the government won’t regulate them, then retailers need to either stop selling them or warn customers of the risks to themselves and others.

"It’s one thing when it happens to you but your child you know she was innocent," she said.

NBC4's I-Team has repeatedly reached out to the owner of the vape shop and his legal representative for comment regarding the lawsuit.

Neither have offered a comment nor has a legal response to the lawsuit at this time been filed.

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