US agency warns loose batteries used in many vapes may be deadly

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has published a new safety advisory warning consumers to avoid loose 18650 lithium-ion batteries, stating that these loose cells are at risk of thermal runaway and explosion — something that could cause fires, injuries, and possibly even death. Among other things, these batteries are often used in certain kinds of vapes.

The issue, according to the CPSC advisory, is that these 18650 batteries sold as loose cells are manufactured as part of battery packs — and they're not meant to be taken apart and sold individually. The batteries have exposed terminals that can short out if they come in contact with some other metal, such as the loose change in one's pocket.

This short-circuit can lead to thermal runaway, which is an issue in which lithium-ion batteries overheat to the point that they ignite and begin venting extreme heat, often leading to fires and explosions. This type of situation can cause a fire, and in cases where the battery is on someone's person, may cause severe injuries or death.

Despite the risk, the CPSC says sellers are taking apart these battery packs, wrapping the individual cells, and selling them as new products on platforms like eBay. These batteries are commonly used in things like 'modded' and homemade vapes, as well as some other devices that make their way to consumers.

Beyond the risk of short-circuiting, the advisory notes that improperly charging these batteries may cause them to become damaged, putting users at risk. The CPSC says that an increasing number of small gadgets are being sold with these loose lithium-ion batteries, including vapes, some toys, headlamps, and small fans. The agency is working with online retailers to get the listing removed.