They’re easy to lose, they get tangled in your purse, and they’re damaged quickly. If you were ever tempted to buy a knock-off version of a piece of tech, it would be your phone charger. After all, why drop $40 on the brand name version when you can pick up a cheap $5 back-up at the gas station on your way home from work? Unfortunately, some people have learned the hard way that there is a serious downside. The Canadian government has just issued a warning after research revealed about 30 cheap brands (of only 50 tested) are causing electrical fires in people’s homes and cars.
USB Phone Charger Warning: Electrical Fire Risk
The phone chargers in question are common in Canada and North America in general. While many are sold in discount and dollar stores, flea markets, or gas stations, you’ll also find them quite often on Amazon and other online retailers. Health Canada conducted a routine test on a sample of USB chargers as part of its regular sampling and compliance project.
Many of the dangerous chargers are unbranded (sometimes just labeled “USB charger” at most), while others are marked as small brands such as:
- Bright Accessories
You can keep up to date with Health Canada’s report here. So far, the known dangerous chargers have been recalled. However, knowing the exact brands in question is not as important as knowing what to look for, since the report is only a sample of the countless knock-offs sold online and in stores. Use these tips to stay safe:
Get Rid of Unbranded USB Chargers
As much as it might be annoying to replace a lost or damaged charger with an expensive option, it’s better to bite the bullet and buy the same brand as your phone. If you currently use a knock-off charger, officials are asking the public to get rid of them. Matt Covey, division chief for fire prevention with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency even called the electrical fire risk a “ticking time bomb” (2).
To see if your charger meets safety standards, look out for one of the following icons or refer to this online list for updates CSA Marks and Labels for North America.
Preventing Electrical Fires
Brett Brenner, president of the Electrical Safety Foundation International also warns about using counterfeit tech: “I’ve seen extension cords all over the country that have inferior copper in them-it’s speaker wire, and it literally melts in your hands. They’re putting a lot of people at risk.” (3)
After you’ve purged your house from counterfeit tech, it’s a good idea to keep a C-rated fire extinguisher on-hand. These are specifically created for dousing electrical fires (you cannot use water or extinguishers with conductive materials for risk of electrocution).
Pass on this warning to your loved ones (and pass on the knock-off brands!).