Federal regulators are warning consumers to make sure they do not have a recalled hoverboard in their home, following the death of a second child, who succumbed to burn injuries following a house fire blamed on the self-righting scooters.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chair Ann Marie Buerkle recently issued a press statement urging consumers to check a list of self-balancing hoverboards that have been recalled, due to problems with the batteries that may cause fires.
Ashanti Hughes, 3, died on March 11 in her Harrisburg, Pennsylvania home when the house caught fire. Another girl, Savannah Dominick, died late last week after suffering burns to 95% of her body. The fire is believed to have been caused by a hoverboard, but the CPSC is uncertain whether it was a model that has been recalled, or a model that is still being sold on the market.
The CPSC has launched an investigation into the incident, working with the Harrisburg Fire Department.
“An important part of our investigation is determining the make and model of the hoverboard,” Buerkle said in the press statement. “We want to know whether the hoverboard was a previously recalled model or a different model that would need further analysis by CPSC technical staff.”
Self-balancing scooters, more commonly known as hoverboards, have two wheels at either end of the platform and are powered by lithium-ion battery packs.
The CPSC indicates that there have been nearly 100 reports of the lithium ion battery packs overheating, sparking, smoking, catching fire or exploding. The agency investigated more than 60 fires reportedly started by hoverboards.
In addition to the two deaths. the incidents have resulted in injuries to users, including burns to the legs, arms, and neck. The incidents have also caused severe property damage.
Last year, the CPSC issued a hoverboard recall in July 2016 affecting more than 500,000 units.
The recalled hoverboards, manufactured by 10 companies and sold under a dozen brands were sold between June 2015 through May 2016 for $350 to $900 each. Brands include, Swagway, Hover-Way, Powerboard, Hype Roam, iMoto, Airwalk, Hovertrax, Wheeli, 2Wheelz, Hover Shark and Orbit.
The Swagway X1 hoverboard recalled more than 250,000 alone after receiving 42 incident reports and 16 reports of burns to the necks, legs, and arms and severe property damage.
Prior to the recall, the CPSC issued a warning to hoverboard manufacturers in February 2016, indicating the devices must comply with federal safety standards and adhere to rigorous testing before selling their products in the U.S.
The agency said the hoverboards that have been recalled were all made with design flaws that caused the problems.
“If a consumer is looking to buy a hoverboard today, whether online or in a store, they should look for a mark or other indication that the product meets the Underwriters Laboratories standard UL 2272,” Buerkle said. “The standard aims to prevent the battery and electrical components in a hoverboard from overheating and catching fire. CPSC has been very engaged with UL, battery manufacturers and other stakeholders since the start of our product-wide investigation in the fall of 2015.”
As reports of problems with the lithium-ion batteries continued to surface last year, the Department of Transportation warned the devices should be shipped as hazardous materials because of the safety threat the batteries posed. The DOT said 80% of shippers could not produce valid testing indicating the hoverboard lithium-ion batteries were properly tested and packaged to maintain integrity during transport, posing safety concerns.
A number of manufacturers and domestic distributors, including Amazon, have been targeted by hoverboard lawsuits filed over the last year. Lawsuits filed against Amazon indicate that the hoverboards sold on that site were promoted as being manufactured by leading electronics manufacturers, which plaintiffs say was false and misleading, as the boards were made by discount Chinese manufacturers who cut corners to save money, resulting in dangerous devices.
The U.S. International Trade Commission issued an order last year banning unlicensed hoverboards from being imported into the U.S., following the reports of fires and explosions resulting in injuries. This was in addition to the many state and local bans put in place in many areas.
The hoverboards were sold online at various retailers, including Amazon.com, Overstock.com, Target.com, and Swagway.com.