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Microwaves investigated for fire risk

Consumer Reports Magazine

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Millions of kitchen appliances are sold every year. When you buy one, you assume it's safe.

Yet government documents show there are an estimated 147,000 appliance fires every year. Many are the result of human error.

But a new investigation from our partners at Consumer Reports Magazine contend that some are caused by the appliances themselves.

Homeowners Worry

The Queen Anne High School condominiums are in a lovely land marked building. But tenant Joe Lyons is afraid for his safety.

The condo board says he's one of 10 residents who've reported KitchenAid microwaves that have started up on their own, and in at least one case, caused electrical arcing.

"I feel unsafe, especially when I heard the stories around the building of the sparking being so intense it sounded similar to fireworks," Lyons said.

A fire in a Florida home started in a microwave that was not in use, according to the official fire report.

Both incidents, reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, involved the same microwave -- KitchenAid model KHMS-155-LSS.

Consumer Reports looked at thousands of pages of CPSC documents in its investigation of appliance fires, including many obtained through its Freedom of Information Act requests.

"Forty-one of the CPSC reports involved KitchenAid microwaves that turned on by themselves, some causing fires," Dan DiClerico of Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports also examined 82 similar reports involving some GE microwaves, six of which involved serious fires.

"The reports listed various models, but 30 complaints involved the GE Spacemaker line of over-the-range microwave," said DiClerico.

What Can You Do?

None of those microwaves have been recalled. And the problem is not limited to these two manufacturers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission told Consumer Reports it has "an open investigation into the safety of kitchen appliances, including microwaves."

If you have a problem with your microwave, unplug it and get a technician to look at it. It's a good idea to know which circuit breaker turns off the microwave in case of an emergency.

Whirlpool, which owns KitchenAid, said it has not been able to verify a single report of a self-starting microwave.

GE told Consumer Reports that they "have investigated unverified reports of 'self-start' and found them to constitute product quality, not product safety, concerns. Many have been determined not to be 'self-starts' at all."

It you're experiencing a problem with any appliance, Consumer Reports said to notify the manufacturer immediately and report the problem to saferproducts.gov

As always, don't waste your money.

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