By Jon Delano

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s called “vaping” and an estimated 2.5 million Americans use electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking the real thing.

But those battery-charged electronic devices can be dangerous.

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Just ask the people who’ve had them blow up in their hands.

Its fans are happy to switch from cigarettes to vaping, as Leslie Clark of the North Side told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Monday.

“I was tired of my asthma flare-ups and I couldn’t breathe. I was coughing my head off every day and every night,” says Clark.

Delano: “And with vaping?”

Clark: “I don’t. It helped clean up my sinuses.”

But whatever the positives, there have been more than two dozen injuries caused by exploding devices.

That’s what happened to 21-year-old Evan Spahlinger in Florida.

Victims have sustained facial fractures, broken teeth, even damaged vertebrae.

It turns out that it’s not the vaping itself that can be particularly harmful.

It’s the device you use and the batteries and how you charge it that can lead to trouble.

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“In each one of those instances it was one of these mechanical mods,” says Anthony Edwards Dewald at the Vape Crusades Vape Loft on the South Side.

A mechanical mod — that’s not the safest, says Dewald..

“A mechanical mod is a device where it is a simple push button. Your battery rides in the middle here and when you push the button on the bottom it creates a connection between the top and the bottom, creating a full circuit and letting your device create the vapor,” explains Dewald.

They’re popular because they create the most vapor.

But if the battery is old or deteriorates, it can overheat risking an explosion.

“If you push the button and it gets really hot, really quick, and you continue to use it, you’re asking for trouble,” warns Dewald.

The same is true with certain battery chargers that overheat, too.

The good news, says Dewald, is that vapers can buy devices and chargers that shut down automatically when they get too hot.

“This one has an internal micro-chip in it. If there’s any problems with your batteries, if it’s starting to get too hot, or it’s an unsafe condition, it will not fire.”

But so far, it’s up to the individual.

The FDA has proposed a rule to take over regulation of vaping, but it’s not in effect yet.

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