For many San Diego County residents, it is now old news that the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was recalled in massive numbers due to a safety defect and the related risk of a lithium-ion battery causing fires and serious burn injuries. For instance, if you traveled via airplane recently, you likely heard warnings about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 aboard the aircraft and the requirement that any of these devices on any passengers be turned off and stowed to avoid causing personal injuries to anyone on board.
A recent article in Forbes Magazine sought to assure consumers that its other products, such as the Galaxy S7, is safe for use. Indeed, in an official statement issued earlier this month, the company said, “Samsung stands behind the quality and safety of the Galaxy S7 family,” and it emphasized that “there have been no confirmed cases of internal battery failures with these devices among the more than 10 million devices being used by consumers in the United States.” Yet the product defects associated with the recalled smartphones have safety advocates at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) wondering whether recall practices need to be changed in order to keep consumers safe, according to a recent article from NPR.
Defective Lithium-Ion Batteries Present a Problem That Goes Beyond Smartphones
If you want to worry about consumer safety and the defective lithium-ion batteries in smartphones that have caused bodily harm and property damage, should your concerns stop at smartphones? According to the NPR article, the problem may be a larger one that concerns electronics more generally and the assumptions we make about product safety when we make a purchase.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones may be the most recent product to contain a defective lithium-ion battery, but these items certainly were not the first to exhibit such a safety defect. Over the last few years, consumers have grappled with electronic safety defects—in particular lithium-ion battery issues—linked to “laptops, baby monitors, flashlights, and of course, those electric ‘hoverboard’ scooters,” all of which are known to have “overheated or caught fire.” To be sure, “lithium-ion batteries are a known troublemaker—and a subject of numerous standards and international regulations.” Yet, as much as we recognize that these products can cause serious injuries and simply may not be safe for use in most capacities, we continue to bear witness to events in which lithium-ion batteries start fires and cause burn injuries.
Prevention, Instead of Resolution, is Key to Avoiding Electronics Injuries
Elliot Kaye, the current chairman of the CPSC, suggests that we may need to change the way we approach defective electronics. Rather than seeking ways to resolve safety defects once they occur, the CPSC should be looking for ways to prevent harms. As such, Kaye “introduced a new initiative to help the agency get a broader understanding of the battery industry” and methods for injury prevention.
Kaye has expressed concern, however, about the future of this initiative under a new presidential administration. As the article explains, “under President Donald Trump in 2017, Kaye is expected to step down as chairman to become a commissioner.”
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(image courtesy of elisfkc from Orlando, FL, United States)