Phone explosions caused by cheap batteries

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Copy of PN Blackberry005 Independent Newspaper Limited The remnants of Ina-Cherie Vermaak's cellphone. Picture: Supplied

Durban - The danger of your cellphone exploding is all too real, with imitation parts thought to have contributed to a curious case in Gauteng this week. On Tuesday a teenage girl from Wonderboom South was traumatised when her Blackberry cellphone exploded in her school bag.

Ina-Cherie Vermaak, 16, who attends a Christian school north of Pretoria, was walking to class after break when she heard a loud explosion, her mother told sister publication Pretoria News.

Her Blackberry cellphone’s battery had suddenly exploded. “Classmates rushed to help her out of the cloud of white smoke. Everyone got a huge fright. She was incredibly shocked because it was a massive explosion,” her mother said.

The school had phoned her mother who took her distraught daughter to hospital for a check-up.

“I cannot believe something like this could happen, but I am so glad she’s okay,” her mother said.

She branded the phone “dangerous” and said children should be warned that incidents like this one could happen. She said she did not know why the cellphone exploded.

“I am just so glad the battery didn’t burn her. It burnt a hole in her school uniform,” the mother said.

Durban electronics engineer Mitch Broughton said that often aftermarket batteries are to blame.

“On the market there are cheaply produced batteries which do not face the same stringent quality and control measures that the handsets at the big cellphone companies are subjected to,” he said.

“The lithium ion battery is controlled by a small board in the device itself which regulates the charge. When there is a heat and pressure build up, these batteries have been known to bulge which is not usually a problem.

“The problem arises when imitation batteries without the proper control boards have a build-up in heat and explode. Lithium is a soft metal which is highly reactive to oxygen so the potential for danger is present,” Broughton said.

Blackberry South Africa spokesperson Mmakafela Mojapelo said: “We take claims of this nature very seriously and are investigating this matter as a priority.”


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