A 14-year-old New York boy was blinded in one eye and severely burned when an e-cigarette exploded in his hand. Leor Domatov was testing an e-cigarette at a kiosk in Brooklyn’s Kings Plaza Shopping Center when the explosion took place.
“This guy was showing me different products of the vaporizers,” Domatov told news station PIX11. “While he was showing me, he connected one of the vaporizers to the battery of the store. He gave it to me to hold and when I was holding it, it exploded in my hands and my face.”
The eighth grader spent five days in the hospital following the April 5 incident. Metal shards pierced both Leor’s eyes and severely burned one of his hands. Leor’s left eye is without vision, his cornea cut through. The cornea of his other eye was cut halfway through, leaving him with partial vision in that eye. His left hand may be permanently damaged.
Because Leor is only 14, he would not have been legally allowed to purchase an e-cigarette. State and local laws in New York prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
According to Mark Freund, an attorney hired by Leor’s family, employees at the kiosk were marketing their products at the entrance to the mall, handing out cards that promote the company’s Instagram account.
“They don’t ask for ID, nothing, and they’re showing different types of products,” he told CBS News. “There are no signs up [on the kiosk] that reflect the New York state and city law.”
The kiosk now has a sign that reads, “Must be 21 to purchase any product, we ID all.” Freund claims the sign was posted after the accident.
This isn’t the first time an e-cigarette malfunctioned and caused injuries. CBS News reports that in January, a California teen suffered first- and second-degree burns when an e-cigarette exploded in his pocket. Last November, a Colorado Springs man suffered a broken neck, facial fractures, burns to his mouth, and shattered teeth when an e-cigarette exploded. And a California man was injured last spring when an e-cigarette blew up in his hand. Shrapnel from the explosion flew into the ceiling of his apartment, causing a fire.
These incidents underscore the dangers of e-cigarettes beyond reported links to nicotine addiction and exposure to harmful chemicals. Concern about the volatility of the lithium batteries that power e-cigarettes and their potential fire hazard led the federal government to ban all e-cigarettes from checked luggage on aircraft. The Department of Transportation said it had reports of at least 26 incidents since 2009 in which e-cigarettes had caused fires or explosions.
Following Leor’s accident, the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs announced it was launching an investigation into the incident at the Brooklyn mall. “It is illegal to sell electronic cigarettes to customers under 21 in New York City, and we will be visiting the retailer to ensure they follow the law,” an agency spokesperson told the New York Daily News.