What You Need to Know About Hoverboard Fires
In 2015, hoverboards quickly became one of the most popular gadgets around. By Christmas 2015, hoverboards had turned into the must-have gift of the season after many celebrities posted pictures and videos on social media of themselves riding them. But just as quickly as hoverboards rose in popularity, stories started surfacing about the dangers they boards posed. Not only are riders at risk for things like broken bones and other injuries if hoverboards are used without wearing proper safety gear, the boards themselves proved to be quite dangerous, even when they weren’t being used.
In one well-publicized incident, a hoverboard for sale at a mall in Auburn, Washington suddenly exploded while it was simply on display. Not long before that event, a home in Louisiana burned down after a hoverboard burst into flames while it was being charged. One apartment building in Hong Kong had to be evacuated after a hoverboard reportedly exploded multiple times while being charged. In March 2017, three-year-old Ashanti Hughes of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania died after a hoverboard exploded and started a fire in her home, making it the first fatal hoverboard explosion in the United States.
It didn’t take long before cities started banning hoverboards from their downtown areas and city streets. Major airlines quickly banned travelers from bringing them onboard or packing them in checked baggage. At their peak, hoverboards could easily be found for sale on sites like Amazon, Overstock, and Alibaba, and while some retailers stopped selling hoverboards all together after these reports started surfacing, many kept selling them.
In February 2016, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stepped in and declared all hoverboards to be unsafe if they don’t have a UL seal of approval. By July of that same year, the CPSC recalled over half a million hoverboards, stating that they’d received over 60 reports of hoverboard fires which had caused over two million dollars worth of property damage in total. Despite so many warnings and highly-publicized reports of hoverboard explosions, many people have continued to use them.
The main reason hoverboards are so prone to catching on fire is that they contain defective lithium ion batteries. While many common items use lithium ion batteries like cell phones and laptops, the problem in this case is that many of the hoverboards were made in China and didn’t meet U.S. product safety standards. When the CPSC announced their recall, they advised that anyone who owns a hoverboard that isn’t UL-certified to stop using it right away and contact the manufacturer or retailer who sold it for further instructions.
If you’ve ever purchased an electronic device, you’ve probably seen a UL label on it. UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories, which is an independent organization which performs safety testing and develops safety standards for many items, including electronic devices. But since so many hoverboards were coming in so quickly from China, UL and other consumer safety organizations like the CPSC didn’t have a chance to develop safety standards for hoverboards before they became such a hot item. So when hoverboards first became popular, none of the ones for sale had been approved by UL. If you truly want a hoverboard, be sure to look for one of the UL-approved models that are now available. Anything that doesn’t have a UL label on it should be considered a fire hazard. However, there is some concern that hoverboards may be hitting the market with counterfeit UL labels on some of its components like batteries and chargers. If you’re injured in a hoverboard fire or explosion, contact a defective product lawyer to find out what legal options are available to you.