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Media Resources

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Release Date: 08/06/2013

ShopSmart: Six Surprising Home Hazards

Appliances that are most likely to start a fire; Plus, ways consumers can protect themselves

SS-Cover (9.13)YONKERS, NY – An alarming number of appliance fires are caused by the units themselves as opposed to human error. The September 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, indentifies six appliances that cause the most fires and tips on how to minimize the risk.

“It was shocking to learn that appliances can turn themselves on or suddenly short-circuit and go up in flames," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “So it's important to learn the signs of trouble and know what to do if you have to deal with an appliance fire.”

ShopSmart analyzed data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System from 2002 through 2009 and found appliances were the main cause of 69,000 fires – with about half of the incidents linked to a mechanical, electrical, or design flaw. Below are the appliances that accounted for most of these fires and ways which consumers can minimize their risk:

RANGES
Burners that turn on by themselves and delayed ignition on a gas oven’s bake and broil functions are the leading contributors to a range fire.
NUMBER OF FIRES: 16,824
PLAY IT SAFE
:  Look for any unusual error messages on the range’s digital display. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or broiling food and be sure to keep flammable items, including oven mitts, away from the cooktop. Kids should be kept at least 3 feet from the cooking area.

CLOTHES DRYERS
Lint buildup and blockages and gas leaks on dryers that run on gas can cause fires.  
NUMBER OF FIRES
: 8,717
PLAY IT SAFE
:  Don’t run dryers when asleep or when no one is home.  Clean out the lint filter before each load and check vents annually for clogs. If using a gas dryer, install a carbon monoxide alarm near the laundry room to warn of leaks, which are poisonous.

MICROWAVE OVENS
Units that turn on by themselves and glass doors that shatter unexpectedly can lead to a potential fire.  Some microwave fire victims said that the panel flashed the code “PAN” or “F2” as self-starting began.
NUMBER OF FIRES: 1,705
PLAY IT SAFE
:  Don’t store food or other items in the microwave.  Look for unusual error messages on digital display panels and if the unit goes on by itself, try to turn it off. Know where it’s plugged in and which circuit breaker controls it in case it won’t turn off using the microwave’s controls.

REFRIGERATORS
Fires can be caused by electronic components that short-circuit, control boards that overheat, or by lightbulbs that stay on when the door is shut.
NUMBER OF FIRES
: 1,514
PLAY IT SAFE
:  Be aware of unusual error messages on fridges with digital displays. Check that the lightbulb goes off when the fridge is closed by pressing the switch, which is usually inside where the door closes.

DISHWASHERS
Fires can be caused by circuit boards and heating elements catching fire, and liquid rinse aids that can leak into circuitry, creating a fire hazard.
NUMBER OF FIRES
: 1,015
PLAY IT SAFE
:  Don’t run a dishwasher when asleep or when no one is home. If the rinse-aid dispenser needs constant refilling, call for a repair.  Know which circuit breaker cuts power to the unit in case it starts smoking or goes up in flames.

TOASTERS AND TOASTER OVENS
Two potential fire hazards are units that turn themselves on and mechanism jams while toasting.
NUMBER OF FIRES
: 902
PLAY IT SAFE
:  Unplug toasters when not in use and inspect them for any frayed power cords. Don’t toast anything that doesn’t easily fit into the slot.

The good news is that these incidents are rare given the millions of appliances sold, and there are ways consumers can protect themselves from an incident.

  • Register new appliances to be notified of service problems.

  • Check for recalls at recalls.gov.  In the past six years, more than 18.6 million appliances have been recalled for flaws that could cause a fire.


About Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon the publication’s celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. It’s ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $5.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at www.ShopSmartmag.org.

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