Tampa teen's portable charger overheats, explodes in nightstand

Evan Axelbank reports

- The mother of a 14-year-old is demanding answers after a portable cell phone charger, powered by a lithium ion cell, seems to have exploded on the boy's nightstand, causing it to burst and spew material.

"It was kind of a rustling sound," said James Dodge, a student at Kathleen High School. "There was smell, it stunk bad."

The portable cell phone charger must be charged before use itself. James' was plugged into an outlet when it apparently overheated.  

James said his face was covered with black powder and copper shavings after it exploded while he slept early Monday morning.

"I could taste stuff in my mouth, it was gross," he recalled.

He woke up his mother, Michelle, who ran into his bedroom.

"It smelled like something burning; not fire burning, but chemically, like wires," she said. "I started moving things around, I'm looking around to make sure nothing is on fire."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented at least 540 fires coming from all kinds of charging devices, including laptops, hoverboards and cell phones. However, they tell us it's still extremely rare.

James bought his charger last week, as he prepared for the new school year, saying teachers often require phones as part of class assignments. For the first week, his $6 model -- made by Uniden, a Texas-based company -- delivered on promises of two fresh charges on the go.

"What we want consumers to know is, we work with the industry to create safety standards," said Scott Wolfson, the communications director of the CPSC.

In the last 10 years, regulators have helped improve heat venting and a fail-safe that shuts the battery down before it explodes. Michelle Dodge and her son are hoping to warn others.

"Thank God my house didn't burn down," she offered.

"I want them to fix the problem," James added. "This doesn't usually happen. But I do not want it to happen again."

Uniden sent FOX 13 a statement, saying:

We have not received any complaints or other information about this incident and therefore cannot meaningfully comment on it.  Uniden takes safety issues with respect to its products very seriously and intends to investigate this incident immediately to determine whether a Uniden product was involved, and if so, whether such product caused or contributed to cause the explosion or fire at issue.  However, because the origin and cause of a fire can be complex, it would be premature for us to comment on your story prior to completing our investigation. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission can be found online at: http://www.cpsc.gov/

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