Buyer Beware: Exploding cell phones

(National) Feb. 14, 2005 - Dixie Driscoll 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."

Marks says one of the problems is a flood of counterfeit batteries. US Customs inspectors caught a number of fakes. Agents were tipped off by the misspellings. Instead of warning the battery might explode, one reads "esplode."

But, often it's hard to tell real batteries from fakes, and Marks says 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
  • Don't buy cheap batteries. They're likely to be counterfeits

Consumer Reports says there are no standards for cell phone batteries, but that may change. Meetings are underway to develop voluntary design and performance standards by late this year.

by Judi Gatson

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees

Copyright © 2005 Consumers Union of US , Inc. All Rights Reserved.