Cheap Smartphone Chargers Linked to Burns

Pediatric doctors published a report linking cheap electronic chargers to burns in patients.
Donna Fuscaldo
Smartphone charging on a bedspyarm/iStock

Cheap portable electronic chargers may not be as cost-effective as you think, as reports continue to mount of people suffering from burns as these devices overheat. 


Those Cheaper Electronic Devices can Cost You in Medical Bills

According to a report published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine penned by Carissa Bunke, Andrew N. Hashikawa and Aditi Mitra, doctors of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, a nineteen year old woman was forced to visit a pediatric emergency department after she was burned by her electronics charger. In the account, the woman was lying in her bed, wearing a chain necklace and had her charger tucked underneath her pillow.

The charger was plugged into the wall electrical outlet. All of a sudden she felt a burning sensation and pain around her neck. Doctors determined she had a circumferential partial-thickness burn. She was treated and released. The doctors concluded in the report, that the burn was likely caused when her electrical charger came into contact with her necklace.

Cheap iPhone Chargers Aren't as Safe as Consumers Think  

“Several companies have investigated the difference in quality and safety of generic versus Apple-brand chargers and have found that the majority of the generic chargers fail basic safety testing, making them a higher risk for electrical injury,” wrote the doctors in the report. “As a result of this case, patients and families should be educated about safe use of these devices, especially while they are charging.” 

The doctors also found an incident in which an electrical shock from a charger threw a man off his bed. In June, reports surfaced that a Louisana woman woke to burns on her arm and sheets after her cheap electronic charger caught on fire while she slept.

Patients Who Suffered Burns Required Follow-Up

Patients who suffered burns from their smartphone charges typically needed medication to manage the pain and had to schedule follow up visits with their primary care doctor or the burn center. The doctors warned severe cases could result in extensive tissue damage or deep burns requiring skin grafts

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The doctors pointed to a study conducted by Electrical Safety First in the UK in which Apple provided the group with 64 different generic charges to undergo safety testing. Of the electronic chargers, 58% failed the electric strength test. That indicates the insulation barrier breaks down.

Meanwhile, the doctors looked at another test of 400 generic iPhone chargers to gauge the risk of electric shock. Of the 400, 22 were damaged during the testing with only three samples actually passing the electric strength for a 99% failure rate. "Even with a low-voltage device, if the current is high, then the electric shock can be severe," Dr. Bunke said in a press release discussing the results.  

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