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Seen At 11: Exploding Cellphones Pose A Serious Danger

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- If you're like most people, your cellphone is probably always close at hand.

But as CBS 2's Kristine Johnson reported Wednesday night, the public is taking heed of a warning about exploding phones. It is happening more and more and causing some serious injuries.

Fred Smilansky said he woke up one morning to find his cellphone that had been charging overnight had exploded.

"I saw the phone was like in pieces," Smilansky said. "The battery inside actually expanded to the point that the screen popped out, the buttons popped out and I was kind of concerned because can you imagine if this happens when you're on the phone, by your ear, or in your pocket?"

Smilansky had good reason for concern. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received dozens of reports of exploding cellphones. A surveillance video showed one that actually exploded in the users' pockets, and worse, some indeed exploded while users were talking on the phone.

"[I've] definitely seen this kind of thing before," said cellphone technician Jake Earp.

The problem, said Earp, is that the lithium batteries commonly used in many phones can expand if overcharged.

"Gases inside the battery start to expand," Earp explained. "It will actually push the motherboard right out of the phone and sometimes break the back."

Lithium batteries can get puffed up and dangerous.

"After a year of being plugged in, plugged out, charging overnight starts to ruin the battery," Earp said.

Pictures of cellphones that have reportedly exploded are posted all over the Internet with warnings. Batteries have been identified as a contributing factor in some of these cases.

But there are things you can do to protect your cellphone. The CPSC advised only using chargers or batteries designed to work with your particular phone. The agency said always to be wary of knock-offs and counterfeit accessories, and keep your phone away from excessive heat.

"Made me think that I'm lucky," Smilansky said.

While there have been some problems with legitimate, brand name batteries, experts say there is a much greater chance a poorly made, counterfeit battery will lack safety devices to detect the overheating or overcharging that can cause explosions.

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