Flashlight Explosion

JNieporte

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Ohio
I'll try to keep this brief. Two days ago, I was going through my lights, seeing what needed to be lubed, what needed new batteries, etc.
My SolarForce L2P (has a factory SolarForce R5 drop-in) needed new batteries. I've been using Titanium Innovations CR123s (from Battery Junction) for a long time and have been very satisfied. I pulled out two CR123s from an unopened pack (Battery Junction ships them four in a sealed pack), used the light, and everything was fine. I turned the light off and put it back.

I needed it yesterday in the basement, so out it came. Everything worked as normal for about four or so minutes, then the light got warm. I switched it off, put it down, and went to get a different light. As soon as I got back in the room, there was a loud pop. Like a .22LR; then it started to smell really bad. After maybe 5 seconds, there was another pop, the same as the first one. I checked myself for hits, then put a dust mask on. I got short of breath, and had to leave the room for a few minutes. I found the flashlight behind the futon, a little bit of smoke escaping, a lot of black crap all over. The floor and two of the walls have this black crap on them, like somebody took a very small blowtorch and made black burns into them. The light has its lens blown out, the drop-in is missing, and the tailcap is still there, but it's in a few pieces. One of the batteries is fused in the light; I haven't found the other one. I wasn't hit with shrapnel or anything. All of the mess that can be cleaned up was cleaned up. A few things from the house are damaged or broken, but it's less than $500 total. The flashlight is in a ziplock bag. This was yesterday.

Today, I woke up with a really bad headache, difficulty breathing, skin irritations, and vomiting. I read a few of the threads here, and sure enough, it looks like a trip to the hospital is in order. I'll let you know what happens as I can. The ziplock bag with the light has been moved to the garage, where it's very well-ventilated. Also, I noticed that these threads inevitably get boiled down to the batteries used. I keep my batteries clean and dry at room temperature, and the ones in this incident came from the same sealed wrapper. I've had nothing but good things to say about both SolarForce and the Titanium Innovations brand.
 
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redsfairlane

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I hope any/all illness from this passes quickly, I too have read some of the threads here and I doubt there would be any permanent effects especially since you put a mask on for the cleanup.

I like how much power lithium offers in a small package, but there is a bit of risk.
 

AnAppleSnail

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Is there much chance of the cell wrapper having been scraped as you inserted them? I use an iron bar and run it on the right-angle edges of mine. Paranoid? Nothing to do with your incident? Most likely.
 

Illum

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the thread op used the ones that comes preshrunk in sticks of 2-4, there is no way measure the cells individually on a meter. Thats where the problem was. At the factory the cells were probably 100%, but one or more had a higher rate of self discharge where coupled by storage conditions and loading went unbalanced. Its a big price to pay for convenience:shakehead
 

JNieporte

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Update:

I'm back from the hospital. The chief complaint was difficulty breathing, but after I mentioned the lithium battery incident, we moved on to other things. I received an albuterol nebulizer treatment, then an ipratropium nebulizer treatment. I also got a breathing treatment that delivered calcium to my lungs. A series of chest X-rays ruled out pneumonia and scarring. Blood was taken for testing. My lungs aren't in super shape, and now I'm supposed to keep an albuterol inhaler on me 24/7. Epinephrine helped open my tubes, but also sped up my heart so I had to stay and do nothing for the next hour. I received an intramuscular injection of Solu medrol for bronchial imflammation. I got a prescrition for prednisone, another inhaler (this one with a steroid), and vicotin "for the pain that will follow" if the blood work says this is hydrofluoric acid poisoning. From the sounds of everything, I inhaled a lot more of it than I thought and it's HF poisoning.

I got home about 30 minutes ago. I looked up all of my medications and their uses. I'm dead tired. We were going to take photos of the damaged and broken items for insurance, but our deductible is $500. I'll tell you now that while we had some nice stuff broken, it wasn't $500 total. I'm a bit more concerned about my health and the coming-soon medical bills. I've still got CR123 lights and I intend to use them; I'm not the type to get in a car accident and then be afraid of the sedan.
 
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JNieporte

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Is there much chance of the cell wrapper having been scraped as you inserted them? I use an iron bar and run it on the right-angle edges of mine. Paranoid? Nothing to do with your incident? Most likely.

Not a high chance of scraping the battery wall against the light, I put batteries in very carefully, but anything is possible.
 

BVH

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I hope you have no permanent health issues because of this. Maybe go with single cell 123 lights to eliminate the back charge risk. When I read of these explosions, it's always with 123 2-cell lights. The risks are high.
 

JNieporte

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Okay, it's 12:59pm. I wasn't able to sleep last night because of the skin irritations. Some of them are red, some are black. They're itchy and a little painful. The doctor said to use nothing but triple antibiotic ointment on it. I called my wife's best friend's husband (how's that for a reference?), who is a doctor, earlier this morning to discuss things. From what he told me, HF poisoning is what I've got. This corroborates with what my doctor said, and I'm a tad worried after seeing the material on-line for this. I've also gotten estimates for how much HF treatment will cost, if that's what it turns out to be. What I have are chemical burns on my skin, and I inhaled quite enough of it to trigger a chemical asthma attack the other day. From the sounds of it, enough to do some lung and / or bronchial tube damage. I have vicotin to help with the pain since it now hurts to inhale, and everyone can hear me wheezing.

I've gotten some advice to seek a lawyer. I don't think I'll be doing that. It definitely won't be to sue somebody. If anything, it will be for financial assistance with the medical bills. BatteryJunction, SolarForce, and whomever makes Titanium Innovations batteries didn't do anything wrong here. I plan on ordering more from BatteryJunction, and I have no plans to discontinue use of my Titanium Innovations batteries.
 

SilverFox

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Hello JNieporte,

I am sorry you are having these health problems. I hope you quickly recover.

One of the purposes of this section of the forum is to share experiences so others can learn from them. It would be nice if we could eliminate problems, but that won't happen.

The next best thing is to think through the experience and see if any changes could be done, next time this happens, to minimize adverse effects.

This is a discussion. I will throw out some ideas and we can go from there. I don't think the safety procedures used in battery manufacturing plants are available for review, so we may have to make up our own. Everyone needs to understand that looking back on something is much easier than when you are actually experiencing it. Still, we can learn from looking back.

Let's take this step by step...

The first indication that something was not quite right was the light heated up in a short period of time.

Your reaction was to turn the light off.

I think this was a good reaction.

Your next reaction was to put the light down and get another light.

While perfectly normal, this is a point where alarm bells should begin ringing.

The problem is that even with alarm bells ringing it sounds like very little time passed between setting the light down and the "rapid vent" incident. If there was more time, you may have come back and noticed things getting hot and been able to totally recognize some danger.

The next thing that happened was the loud pop.

At this point you became confused and started to check things out.

Looking back on this in review, this is where a different course of action would have been helpful. Instead of going to check things out, it would have been better to clear the area and open it up to vent the fumes. A glance around the area would alert you to open flames, and seeing none, it is time to get clear of the area.

You tried to provide yourself some protection by putting on a mask, but the particular mask you had does not protect against gas fumes. I believe with HF you need SCBA to protect you. Since most people don't have access to a SCBA device, it is better to get away from the area.

The next issue is cleaning up the mess.

A basic rule in chemical accidents is to protect your skin from any contact with the chemicals. Once again remembering that we are looking back on this and not caught up in the moment of it actually happening, it would have been better if you put on some gloves before touching anything. The ziploc bag is fine, and eventually you got it outside the house. It would have been better to get it out as soon as the fumes had ventilated enough to gain access to the area.

The next step is clean up. You should also protect yourself from contact with chemicals, residue, and fumes during the clean up process. Also, anything used during the clean up needs to be moved outside, and clean up materials need to be laundered seperately from your normal household laundry.

It is good that you recognized that something was wrong with your health and that you sought out medical attention. It sounds like you got gassed pretty good.

The body is a remarkable organism. It can recover from a wide variety of ailments. Some of these chemicals are nasty. Some of the drugs used to treat the problems are also nasty. I would suggest watching your diet and drinking a lot of water while you are recovering. I hope you have a speedy recovery.

What we can take from this is that when cells vent the fumes may not be good for you. The residue may not be good for you. And when you experience side effects from exposure it is good to get medical help.

Once again, this is my view on this and it is open for discussion. The idea is to enjoy our lights and do so in safety. Fortunately these incidents are rather limited and most of us will never have to deal with something like this. Still, it is good to review and have a plan. Things get more complicated when there are other family members and children in the house.

Tom
 

JNieporte

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Hello JNieporte,
....
Once again, this is my view on this and it is open for discussion. The idea is to enjoy our lights and do so in safety. Fortunately these incidents are rather limited and most of us will never have to deal with something like this. Still, it is good to review and have a plan. Things get more complicated when there are other family members and children in the house.

Tom

I agree with pretty much everything you said. I know a lot about chemistry, I have training as a mechanical engineer, and I worked with a lot of explosives when in the military. I've used SCBAs in the past, but don't have my own. I didn't want my house to burn down, so I acted as quickly as I could, at the risk of putting my health in jeopardy. I'm still vomiting about three times a day. I still have skin irritations and trouble breathing. I feel weak all the time. I've missed the past two days of work due to this incident. I'll be getting the results of my blood tests back soon, at which time we can get a better eye for treatment. I actually just opened my mail, and the medical bill (so far) isn't looking good for acquiring more lights any time soon :mad:

I'll keep you updated on what's going on. Thanks for the intelligent and well thought-out reply.
 

Chrontius

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I just realized that 3M has a gas mask filter specifically designed for acid vapor, and lists some degree of protection from HF vapor. They have a second one designed specifically for HF.

http://goo.gl/u8OjE
http://goo.gl/NFz7k

Compatible 3M masks are sold at Home Depot, and I'm starting to seriously consider keeping one on hand, just in case.
 

TEEJ

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Wow, that sucks.

:(

I'll add to the excellent info given above that a tube of calcium gluconate for example would be a good thing to have handy.

The 2.5% gel versions for example can be applied where ever you have contact with HF to help hinder its penetration into your tissue. In labs, we use that as part of the response kits.

The dastardly thing about HF is that is doesn't really hurt at first....so there's little warning about how bad things are going to get later on.

You'd need to act proactively, and, of course, most people don't realize the severity of a situation in time. This is why people burn to death trying to put out a kitchen fire, etc...when they could have simply left...the smoke inhalation gets them while they distracted by the flames and the the thought that the house might burn down...

So the house burns down anyway, and takes them with it....instead of burning down empty.

I hope you feel better soon!

:rock:
 

JNieporte

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Got a call from my doctor today. We need to do more blood work, but it ain't good. I got some more medications (calcium gluconcate solution in a nebulizer, different pain medications) and I hear more are on the way.
 

JNieporte

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Ohio
Hydrofluoric acid poisoning confirmed :(

We'll be starting a lot of medicines. My lungs have sustained permanent (but not debilitating) damage. The alveolar ducts (which I kind of need to breathe) are damaged as well. I'll be puffing on an albuterol inhaler whenever I get short of breath. The painful burns on my skin will go away. I'm acquiring financial assistance for the medical bills. It could be a lot worse.
 
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