Government safety regulators are looking into the fire and fall risks of hoverboards, one of the hottest gifts given last Christmas.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that engineers at its National Product Testing and Evaluation Center in Rockville, Md. are investigating dozens of fires involving hoverboards, also called smart boards. Despite numerous videos of hoverboard fires circulating online and in news reports, they flew off the shelves during the holiday season.
Engineers are focused on components of the lithium-ion battery packs and their interaction with the circuit boards to determine the cause of the fires.
There are currently no established safety standards for hoverboards, but both ASTM International and UL are planning to develop standards to address both fire and fall hazards. In the meantime, officials said that while certain hoverboard components, such as battery packs or power supplies, might be UL certified, there is no UL certification for the hoverboards themselves and that consumers should not consider a UL mark on the product or packaging an indication of the product’s safety. The mark may even be a sign of a counterfeit product.
The agency is actively investigating the safety of hoverboards made and/or sold by:
Smart Balance Wheel / One Stop Electronic Inc.
Smart Balance Wheel Scooter / Glide Boards
Hover-way Hands-Free Electric / Digital Gadgets LLC
Swagway Hands-Free Smart Board / Swagway LLC
Smart Balance Board / I Lean Hoverboards
E-Rover-Mini Smart Balance Scooter / LeCam Technology
Smart Balance Wheels / Kateeskitty
iMOTO / Keenford Limited
Smart Balance Wheel / Luxiyan and
E-Rover Smart Balance Wheel
In addition to incidents of hoverboards catching of fire, the agency has received increasing reports from hospitals across the country that children and adults are suffering serious fall injuries associated with use of these products, injuries that may be attributed to more than just user inexperience.
“I am concerned, for example, that the current designs of these products might not take fully into consideration the different weights of different users, potentially leading to the units speeding up or lurching in a manner that a user would not have reason to anticipate, especially a first-time user,” CPSC Charman Elliot Kaye said in a statement. “We are looking deeper into the design of these products to see if they present a hidden hazard that is leading to fall injuries that should not occur, even on a product that presents some risk of falling.”
Kaye recommends that anyone who continues to use a hoverboard wear a helmet, elbow and kneepads and wrist guards. Users should also keep a fire extinguisher nearby when using or charging a hoverboard in or around the home. Be aware that certain colleges, institutions and properties have banned the use of hoverboards.
In response to the safety concerns, online retail giant Amazon has announced it will issue a full refund to consumers who bought a hoverboard through the website and wish to return it.
“I want to commend Amazon for voluntarily stepping up, providing a free remedy and putting customer safety first,” Kaye said. “As encouraged as I am by Amazon’s actions, I expect other retailers and manufacturers of hoverboards to take action and offer a full refund now to their customers as well. I also expect responsible large-volume online sellers in particular to stop selling these products until we have more certainty regarding their safety.”
Consumers should report fires or falls to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.SaferProducts.gov.
Photo Credit: DanielPetkov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons