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Amazon, others pull hoverboards amid fire reports

Concerns over hoverboards catching fire have made one of this year's most popular Christmas gifts too hot for Amazon.

As first noted by Best Reviews, the company has pulled nearly all of the brands of hoverboards from its site as federal regulators investigate reports of them exploding into flames.

There have been 11 reports in 10 states of the self-balancing electric scooters bursting into flames received by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, spokesman Scott Wolfson told TODAY on Monday. The CPSC is currently conducting an investigation.

"We're looking at a very wide array of models and products,'' Wolfson said. "We want to know who's selling them, where and through what means."

Amazon is now asking any hoverboard sellers for "documentation demonstrating that all hoverboards you list are compliant with applicable safety standards."

"That's a good sign of safety by a retailer to take the issue to that level,'' Wolfson said about Amazon's response.

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Meanwhile, Overstock.com has stopped selling the gadgets altogether.

The Toy Industry Association does not consider hoverboards toys because they are primarily used for transportation, meaning there are no regulations for them, so the quality varies.

"I think it's a legitimate question to ask,'' Sean Kane, founder and president of The Safety Institute, told TODAY Monday. "If I buy a high-end version, am I getting a safer one? And the answer is we don't know."

The quality of the lithium-ion batteries used to power the boards can vary, with cheaper components making them more susceptible to fire, Carnegie Mellon University professor Jay Whitacre told WIRED magazine.

"This is very similar to our message in 2005 when we were seeing fires with lithium ion batteries in cell phones and computers,'' Wolfson said. "This is not a foreign issue to us."

The ten states where the fires were reported are Ohio, Louisiana, Alabama, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, Washington and Maryland.

The latest, at a home in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on Nov. 8, occurred when a hoverboard that was charging blew up and set a bed on fire, according to Wolfson and Montgomery County fire officials.

Similar incidents have also been reported in New York and Florida.

While it conducts its investigation, the CPSC has also issued tips for hoverboard safety.

  • Do not charge hoverboards overnight because of the lithium-ion batteries.
  • Wear a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads when using one.
  • Report any incidents, whether it's a fire or fall, to saferproducts.gov.

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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