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Glass bakeware’s potential to explode surprises home cooks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The packaging for the Pyrex product shows a warning not to set the glass dish on top of a hot stove.

But it doesn't show what happens if you do.

Megan Simpson had just gotten her glass casserole dish out to start fixing dinner for company she was expecting at her Bridge Road apartment. She mistakenly put the dish on a burner she had turned on to boil eggs. Realizing the dish was on the hot burner, she bent over the stove to see if she had scorched the casserole dish.

Fortunately, she stood and turned her head away just as the glass dish shattered, propelling chunks and slivers of glass all over her, the stove and the kitchen.

"I'm lucky not to be blinded by the Pyrex," she said recently, recalling the January incident. She said she had to use pliers to remove a piece of glass impaled in her shoe.

Former food columnist and now Gazette Executive Editor Rob Byers put a hot Pyrex casserole full of gravy on a hot burner on Thanksgiving Day five years ago.

His wife, Tara Tuckwiller, wrote about the incident in their "Main Ingredient" column in the Sunday Gazette-Mail.

She and guests were seated for dinner, waiting for Byers to finish the gravy. "Then we heard what sounded like a high-powered rifle shot in the kitchen."

When she peeked into the kitchen, "Gravy was everywhere. On the stove, the floor, the walls, the ceiling, dripping from Rob's goatee. Little microdroplets of gravy hung in the air like chemical warfare. <t40>...<t$>

"We had roasted the turkey in a Pyrex baking dish -- we didn't own an actual roasting pan -- which went fine until Rob plopped the glass dish onto the stovetop to make gravy out of the pan drippings. Apparently, you can't put Pyrex on the stove. Just FYI."

That same Thanksgiving Day in 2007, an Illinois woman was baking a ham in a Pyrex baking dish at 350 degrees. When her daughter opened the oven door to baste the ham, "the dish just exploded." The women had splash burns and a child cut her foot on a piece of glass.

"I can't tell you how scary that was," Patricia Szczenia told Consumer Reports.

In a January article, the magazine reported on tests it conducted on Pyrex and on Anchor Hocking glass bakeware during its year-long investigation of the products.

Consumers Union, the publisher of the magazine, urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission to conduct a thorough study of glass bakeware "with particular attention to the differences between bakeware made of soda lime glass and of borosilicate."

Tests done by Consumer Reports found that glass dishes made of soda lime ash shattered at lower temperatures than those manufactured in Europe, which uses the more expensive borosilicate glass.

The website for Pyrex says the glass bakeware has been made using the same soda lime composition and heat-strengthening process for more than 60 years, first by Corning and then by current owner World Kitchen, and at the same plant in Pennsylvania.

Consumer Reports said World Kitchen and Anchor Hocking defend the safety of their products, saying they receive consumer complaints about breakage from only a fraction of 1 percent of the glass bakeware sold.

"In fact, consumers have safely and reliably used hundreds of millions of pieces of Pyrex glassware in American kitchens for decades," says the Pyrex website, pointing out that glass bakeware is used in an estimated 80 percent of American homes.

"Since 1998, World Kitchen has manufactured more than 390 million units of Pyrex glass products," according to Pyrex.

Consumer Reports looked into 168 incidents of glass baking dishes shattering. They included dishes exploding in the oven, cooling on countertops as well as those used improperly -- placed on a hot burner, in an oven not preheated, on a wet surface.

The cardboard packaging containing a new piece of Pyrex does list improper uses with small drawings and in small type.

Simpson didn't save her cardboard packaging when she bought her Pyrex dish about a year ago. "I knew it was oven-safe, so I assume it stood up to heat."

She didn't report the incident to the company or to the CPSC. Neither did Byers nor Bill Lynch, another Gazette reporter, whose glass casserole exploded when he, too, put it on a hot burner.

"For every incident reported to the agency, there are likely to be scores more that are not," noted Consumer Reports.

The Pyrex website noted that all glass can break if exposed to sudden or uneven temperature changes. It listed "four simple rules" to follow to avoid breakage.

1. Always place hot bakeware on a dry cloth potholder or towel. Never place hot bakeware on top of the stove, on a metal trivet, on a damp towel, in the sink or directly on a counter.

2. Never put bakeware directly on a heat source such as a stovetop or grill, under a broiler or in a toaster oven.

3. Always allow the oven to fully preheat before placing bakeware in the oven.

4. Always cover the bottom of the dish with liquid before cooking meat or vegetables.

Consumer Reports said manufacturers should imprint "clear and prominent warnings on their bakeware, not just on the packaging that gets tossed out upon first use."

It also urged consumers to report incidents of exploding glass bakeware to the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 800-638-2772.

Reach Rosalie Earle at earle@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5115.


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