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Call Kurtis: Bloated Batteries; When Tech Gadgets Turn Dangerous

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13'...
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Matt and Renee Silva saved an old iPhone for their kids to play games. But the couple called Kurtis after the phone appeared to self-destruct, creating a dangerous situation. The battery inside the phone swelled up so much, it broke the casing open, like a clam shell. And we learned it could explode.

Kids know their way around technology these days, so the Silvas thought nothing of letting their son and daughter play with Renee’s old iPhone 3GS.

“Once she upgraded to a new phone, the kids used it as an iPod, just for games and videos and stuff like that,” said Matt.

Then the phone stopped taking a charge, and a few days later, the family found it the phone case split open, with the battery blown up like a balloon.

“So the face separated from the back of the phone,” Said Matt.

After seeing YouTube videos showing phone batteries swelling and exploding, the Silvas worried.

“All I thought about was my kids holding it at the time when that happens,” said Matt.

CBS13 found complaints similar to the Silvas’ on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.

“They need to get rid of that phone and get rid of the battery ASAP,” said CNET Senior Editor, Jessica Dolcourt.

Dolcourt says batteries swell because of the toxic chemicals building up inside. It’s rare for a battery to get in such dangerous state, like the Silva’s iPhone, but she says it may depend on where you store it and how it’s used.

“The more you use it, the more the battery heats up, and then the more of this hydrochloric acid by-product you create. Also, it’s exacerbated by keeping your phone in a hot environment,” said Dolcourt.

The Silvas say Apple couldn’t give them many answers about their bloated phone.

“They just said to dispose of it. They didn’t say how or properly dispose of it, or where to put it,” said Matt.

If you notice your gadget’s battery swelling out of its case, Dolcourt says put it in a fireproof container, wearing flame retardant gloves, if you have them. Take it to an electronics store or another recycling facility that can safely dispose of the batteries. Apple’s website says it will accept its products for recycling.

The two year old phone is no longer under warranty. But should an expensive gadget self-destruct after just two years? Apple didn’t answer our questions.

The Silvas are getting rid of the iPhone and they want to warn other parents.

“It’d be nice if Apple publicly came out with something saying this is a possibility of happening with the phone and an explanation of how this happens to the phone,” said Matt.

CBS13 did read complaints about batteries swelling in other gadgets. You can complain about similar issues and read other product complaints at the CPSC’s complaint website.

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