January 23, 2004 11:12 AM PST

'Exploding' cell phone battery recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued its first-ever recall of a cell phone battery on Friday, sparking new concern about the safety of a gadget in the hands, pockets and purses of 155 million Americans.

The voluntary recall affects Kyocera Wireless model 7135 smart phones sold between September and December, bought either online or in stores belonging to Verizon Wireless, Arkansas-based Alltel or Chicago-based US Cellular. The handsets use batteries manufactured by Coslight International Group of Hong Kong and have a serial number on the underside that ends with "-05".

San Diego-based Kyocera said on Friday that it is trying to reach all 40,000 people who bought the cell phone in order to arrange for delivery of a free replacement.

Kyocera 7135 Smartphone

On four occasions, the batteries in the Kyocera phones have short-circuited and heated up enough to trigger a built-in safety mechanism that vents superheated gases in order to avoid an explosion, according to the safety commission. On Dec. 6, a Philadelphia-area man suffered second-degree burns on his leg when the spare cell phone battery in his pocket vented, it said. In the three other instances, the batteries were connected to the Kyocera 7135, but the phones were not being held or close to a person when they vented, according to Kyocera.

"Any incidents of consumers getting burned are of great concern to us," said commission spokesman Scott Wolfson. The commission has never before issued a cell phone-battery recall, he added.

Kyocera has also stopped shipping the 7135 handset as a precaution, but expects the phone to go back on sale "shortly," with batteries made by another manufacturer, a Kyocera representative said. The company also no longer does business with Coslight, the representative added.

A representative for Coslight, which supplies batteries to other handset makers, did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

Reports of overheating cell phone batteries appear to be on the rise, raising yet another health-related concern over handhelds, which are already the subject of scientific speculation regarding cancer risks. In October, Kyocera stopped shipping one of its Phantom-model cell phones after an Omaha, Neb., family reported the phone blew up. Since then, there have been at least three reports of Nokia phones with faulty batteries. The Finnish company has said that two of the phones malfunctioned because they used batteries not made by Nokia. The third incident involved an original Nokia battery.

 

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