How Safe Is Your Phone?


It is very rare to worry about your mobile phone being a cause of death, because as Thomas Tolfree stated, “we have a reasonable expectation that products we buy are safe.” This is why when his 13 year-old daughter’s phone burnt as a result of being left under a pillow, he said warnings about phones and the possibilities of fires  should be more commonly advertised.

Phones have been responsible for numerous deaths in recent years globally, and although Samsung stated they have warned users about leaving phones under pillows, many people are unaware of the dangers. Ariel Tolfree had a Samsung Galaxy S4. She said her phone must have slipped under her pillow as she fell asleep, and that the smell of burning woke her up. After thinking nothing of it, she fell back asleep.

However, she was woken a second time by a more prominent burning smell, which is when she realized her phone had singed her bed sheets and pillow, and was completely melted. Her father Thomas suspects the phone overheated, causing the battery to swell and start a fire, because he had recently seen a similar report on swelling baby monitor batteries which had led to a nationwide recall.

The phone was burned so badly it was barely recognisable, as the glass and plastic had both melted. A Samsung spokesperson said that Samsung products are safe, and pointed out that the battery was a replacement unit not an original Samsung part. However, he continued to say Samsung agrees there is a need for customer education when it comes to rechargeable batteries, which is why they post a warning in their user guide stating if devices are on bedding or other material it could restrict airflow and cause a fire.

However Thomas Tolfree argues that if this is the case there should be a large warning label like seen on cigarette packets, because putting the warning on the instructions is not visible enough, particularly as many do not read the manuals to a phone as they already know how to use them. Samsung has requested the phone be taken to them so that they can investigate further. They have also replaced Ariel’s phone, bedding and mattress to compensate for the inconvenience.

Is this enough to compensate for potential death by fire though? And is this product really safe for consumerism, or should it be recalled?

Michael Lewin


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