Half a Million Hoverboards Recalled for Fire Risk

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By Martina Barash

July 6 — Eight makers and two retailers are recalling more than 500,000 self-balancing scooters following 99 sparking, smoking, fire and explosion incidents, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

“Major players” in the hoverboard industry such as Swagway LLC and Razor USA LLC are among the companies taking steps aimed at addressing the fire risk from lithium-ion batteries, CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye told reporters July 6 at a CPSC laboratory in Rockville, Md.

The CPSC looked into 60 fires in 20 states associated with the popular product, including fires that destroyed homes, Kaye said.

Scooter makers involved in the recall reported 18 people with burn injuries, according to related recall announcements.

Batteries Produce Heat

The recalled products contain battery packs that group too many heat-generating batteries together and lack components to manage the heat, Kaye told Bloomberg BNA in a later interview.

The problems result from “a rush to get something to market as cheaply as possible without regard to safety,” he said.

A new UL safety standard for hoverboards' electrical systems, UL 2272, is in place, agency spokeswoman Patty Davis told Bloomberg BNA.

The standard, the first of its kind for hoverboards, includes requirements and performance tests for batteries and other electrical components.

Kaye said the UL standard, which came together quickly, was a “game changer,” and should help ensure that new hoverboards don't present the same fire risks.

Falls Also Pose Concerns

Remedies for owners of recalled hoverboards include replacement of the hoverboard with a new, UL-certified one; installation of a new battery pack that complies with UL requirements; or a refund, Davis said.

The choice of remedies depends on the company conducting the recall, she said.

The CPSC has been investigating self-balancing scooters since December 2015 and warned of port seizures in February (44 PSLR 204, 2/29/16).

Falls are another hazard associated with hoverboards, Kaye told reporters.

Researchers have used emergency-room data to produce an estimate of 7,200 injuries since last August, he said.

Fractures—which are serious injuries—account for 50 percent of hoverboard ER visits, and sprains make up another 20 percent, he said.

“We do still need a stability standard,” he said.

Advice for Companies

Generally, Kaye said during the interview, manufacturers should “take safety into consideration from the design phase.”

And for sellers, “All we do is sell” is not good enough, he said.

Retailers should prod their vendors on safety and “hire someone” to investigate the safety of the products they sell, he said. “That's more cost-effective than a recall,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina S. Barash in Washington at mbarash@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com

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