U.S. Government Cracking Down on Hoverboards

Regulators say they will seize or recall any of the two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters if they fail to meet new safety standards

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has updated its opinion on hoverboards.

In a letter to manufacturers, importers and retailers, U.S. regulators said they will seize or recall any of the two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters, which were a huge hit this holiday season, if they fail to meet recently released safety requirements.

The safety agency says only hoverboards with a UL sticker, symbolizing approval from Underwriters Laboratory, will be considered safe from this point forward. There are no hoverboards with UL approval.

The Internet is littered with photos and videos of hoverboards on fire and spewing black smoke.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in its letter issued Thursday noted 52 reports of fires that users say were caused by hoverboards in 24 states. Those fires led to $2 million in property damage, including destruction of two homes and an automobile. It said many of those incidents would not have happened if the hoverboards met existing standards.

Protesters defied an emergency decree and confronted police in Chile's capital Monday, continuing disturbances that have left at least 11 dead and led the president to say the country is "at war." Police used tear gas and streams of water to break up a march by hundreds of students and union members on one of Santiago's main streets, but demonstrators who at first dispersed later reformed elsewhere. Meanwhile, police and soldiers guarded Chileans who formed long lines outside supermarkets before they reopened after many closed during a weekend during which dozens of stores were looted or burned.

The CPSC said it wants the hoverboard industry to follow requirements set earlier this month by UL, an independent company that tests the safety of products for manufacturers.

Concerns that lithium-ion batteries inside the hoverboards could spark a fire have led to bans by several airlines and college campuses.

The CPSC revealed last month that it was investigating hoverboard makers and sellers. Amazon.com Inc. also offered full refunds for customers who bought a hoverboard through the site.

Concerned parents in North Texas have already been taking precautions.

"We just charge it where we can see it," said Marcia Koppel, of Southlake. "We kind of pull it away from any furniture around, and only when we are home right by the hoverboard, just hoping we don't put the house on fire."

"We make sure that we charge it outside of the house, or we keep it in the kitchen where everybody can kind of keep tabs on it and make sure we unplug it before it's fully charged," said Kathy Tichenor, of Keller.

A young mother is crediting strangers with helping to save the life of her 11-month-old daughter aboard an American Airlines flight last week.

Emergency room doctors also report problems with hoverboards.

Those at North Hills Hospital have treated about a dozen hoverboard injuries in the past two months.

"We're seeing fractures, broken ribs, broken backs – people falling on their bottoms and getting compression fractures of the back," said Dr. Curtis Johnson. "Big ones that worry me are people not wearing helmets and head injuries."

Swagway, a leading manufacturer of hoverboards, released the following statement Friday to NBC 5:

"We have been actively working with the CPSC on the investigation of hoverboards. We have also been actively conducting R&D on our own and are continuing to work on improving our product features including enhanced safety, which remains a top priority for us.

"Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries throughout its history has always posed a potential hazard and our staff has been working day and night trying to analyze data on any and all potential issues and concerns. While still at the final testing phase, to address these concerns, we are in the belief that we have mastered the technology, where it will no longer be a concern and have plans to incorporate those features into our next production. We are confident that our product is by far the safest on the market."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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