A 72-year-old woman from Langhorne, Pennsylvania, was injured by her Dell laptop when it suddenly exploded, Philly.com reports.
Loretta Luff said she was checking her email and playing a game of Spider Solitaire when her Dell Inspiron laptop burst into flames, sending debris several feet across the room and spraying computer parts all over her living room carpet.
“It blew up,” Luff told CBS Philly. “It flipped my computer back and the battery pack and all came out this way. The next thing I knew, my shirt was on fire, I grabbed that and took that off and I think that’s when I singed my hair.”
Luff said the laptop’s flaming batteries also started a small fire on her carpet, so she extinguished the flames with water from the bowl of one of her two toy poodles.
Luff suffered first- and second-degree burns to her face, arms, chest, and her foot after she accidentally stepped onto one of the laptop’s blazing batteries.
Frank Farry, chief of the Langhorne-Middletown fire department, told CBS Philly he had “never seen an exploding laptop before.” According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, however, laptops have been known to catch fire in the past, and overheating battery packs is a common complaint.
Dell was contacted about the incident and released the following statement to the media:
Dell places the highest priority on the evaluation and investigation of all safety and potential safety issues for the products that we and our suppliers produce. When Dell becomes aware of an incident, we handle it with the goals of assuring customer safety and a thorough failure analysis. Dell will take appropriate steps to investigate this incident. It’s also important to note that, in our product documentation, Dell tells customers that “using an incompatible battery or a third-party battery may increase the risk of fire or explosion and that they should replace the battery only with a battery purchased from Dell that is designed to work with their Dell computer.”
Luff said she replaced the battery in her Dell laptop about three years ago, but wasn’t sure if the replacement was made from Dell.
Knockoff electronics chargers tend to cut corners, according to engineering experts, because when the quality of the capacitor and circuit protector are poor, the capacitor can break down and send hundreds of volts of electricity directly into the device’s battery, which can cause it to melt or explode.
The human body can only withstand 36 volts of energy, which is why unauthorised laptop and phone chargers are extremely dangerous. Last July, a 23-year-old flight attendant was killed via electric shock stemming from her still-connected iPhone 5, while one week later, a 30-year-old Chinese man fell into a coma after he was shocked by his iPhone 4 still connected to its charger.
Apple currently has a program to trade in counterfeit, unsafe chargers and adapters for reliable chargers built by the company. Dell doesn’t offer a comparable program, but it does list out which batteries and AC adapters work with which Dell laptops on its website. The company’s laptop chargers, on average, only cost about $US20.
Hear Luff’s story in her own words in the video below, courtesy of WTXF-TV Fox 29: