Pyrex-o-mania Continues on CBS Chicago

After scanning the Internet and finding 300 claims of Pyrex dishes “exploding” over the last five years – none of which appear to have been verified as actually involving Pyrex (that would require testing the glass), and without any reliable evidence that the dishes weren’t subjected to the kind of use the warning labels warn against, CBS 2 Chicago’s award-winning investigative reporter Pam Zekman turned to experts to find out what was going on in the second-part of an expose on how glass can… um… break.

The maker of Pyrex, World Kitchen, supplies test results to the station showing how the dishes can break if subjected to extreme temperature changes, but these aren’t dramatic enough, so CBS turns to Professor Sheldon Mostovoy, PhD, of the Illinois Institute of Technology to devise more tests to get the dishes to break. Finally, one dish, heated to 450 degrees, filled with sand to simulate food, and placed on a wet granite counter cracks, sending a shard of glass six to eight feet away. Which is what one would expect, given the laws of physics and the nature of glass.

A smoking gun? No. After all this, Zekman tells viewers that Mostovoy believes Pyrex is safe. It’s the safety instructions that are inadequate. Well, you can be the judge, as here’s the opening paragraph from the leaflet that accompanies Pyrex bakeware:

READ and SAVE
WARNINGS

Failure to follow these instructions can cause breakage resulting
in injury or property damage.
• NEVER USE ON TOP OF STOVE, under a broiler, in a toaster
oven, or place over oven vent or pilot light.1
• AVOID SEVERE HOT TO COLD TEMPERATURE CHANGES and
DO NOT add liquid to hot dish, place hot dish or glass cover in
sink, immerse in water or place on cold or wet surfaces.2
Handle ALL hot ovenware and glass covers with dry
potholders, including ware with Silicone gripping surfaces.
• DO NOT use in microwave to hold or support popcorn bags,
microwave convenience foods with special browning
wrappers, etc.
• DO NOT use to pop corn, caramelize sugar, or deep fat fry.
• DO NOT overheat oil or butter in microwave. Use minimum
amount of cooking time.
• DO NOT use or repair any item that is chipped, cracked, or
scratched… [etc]

Professor Mostovoy thinks the lettering is too small. Another professor, Jack Mecholsky, Ph.D, of the University of Florida believes the warnings are too difficult to follow – even though hundreds of millions of Pyrex and other glass dishes are being used daily without catastrophic results. (One is tempted to say that if you can’t understand the warnings above, how can you possibly follow a recipe?).

Finally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission tells CBS Chicago that it doesn’t believe Pyrex is a “safety hazard.” But that’s still not good enough for Zekman: there will be a third segment running tonight (that’s Pyrex three nights running) to figure out what is going on.

Here’s what’s really going on: CBS Chicago is desperately trying to salvage some point to an investigation, which presumably ate up a lot of money but managed to turn up nothing more substantial than an opinion that the warning label should have larger lettering. This should be laughable; but even though CBS failed to verify any of the anecdotes about exploding Pyrex (see yesterday’s post), and essentially relies on self-reported incidents from other Internet sites (since when is this a credible method of reporting?), the fact that it keeps associating a product with a risk functions like bad advertising. When people hear the word Pyrex, they’ll think, “oh, doesn’t that explode?

And once that starts happening, how long can it be before people begin filing lawsuits claiming that they have been emotionally traumatized by the sound of exploding dishes?

11 Responses to Pyrex-o-mania Continues on CBS Chicago

  1. Knicked face says:

    Pam,
    I cut myself shaving this morning.
    Would you like the name of the razor manufacturer?
    I think it was Bic or Shick or Remmington…
    But, razors are razors. Right? Just pick the most common one.

    There’s a key word in “investigative reportor”.
    It’s “investigate”. Not here-say.

    Is there a problem with accurate news reporting???
    Perhaps the next big topic…

  2. Nancy says:

    Thank you for posting this! I watched the first two segments of this news story and thought “Really? There’s a news story about THIS?” It makes me think of the same people who required the safety label of “Caution: HOT” on their cup of hot coffee.

  3. [...] part three of its investigation into “exploding” Pyrex last night (see here and here for reviews of parts one and [...]

  4. john kallend says:

    For generations of cooks, “Pyrex” meant glass cookware made of borosilicate glass, with extremely high thermal shock resistance. We got used to its ability to withstand abrupt temperature changes without exploding (or even cracking).

    In what can only be a cost saving exercise, the US brand changed to soda glass some 10 years ago. The thermal shock resistance of soda glass is far lower than that of borosilicate. We now seem to be experiencing a rash of explosions that would not have happened with the previous formulation. Coincidence? The company would have us believe it, but I don’t.

    Isn’t it odd that Pyrex brand laboratory glassware is still made with borosilicate? So is Pyrex cookware in the EEC. Coincidence? I think not.

  5. Dan M says:

    We’ve been using Pyrex glass/bake ware for quite a while. Recently, I’ve purchased five portables and five bake ware and have had no problems (the portables are used almost dailiy and the bake ware twice a month). Oddly, perhaps due to wear over time, it was one of our pie plates (made from the borosilicate glass made prior to 1998 and perhaps used least of the glass ware we own). We have had no problemswith the other glass bake ware. As of yet …. and yes, it is Pyrex. I’ve had more serious injuries (and many) from using my 12″ VIctorinox Chef’s knife (sharpened regularly) than from the glass ware. In fact, I can’t remember ever being injured (i.e. burned or cut) from any glass ware.

  6. Rose Mary Aguila says:

    I bought my first set of “Corelle” dishes and bake ware in 1981. We used it in our yacht for 21 years. We crossed the Caribbean from Miami to South America 6 times,they got lots of ware and shaking, we never had a problem. When we sold our boat,we gave that set to our son, who is still using it. We bought another set for our home 10 years ago, we us it every day, this set even has pots, witch I also use all the time. Never had a problem. Last week I dropped one of the bake ware pieces and of course it broke. I tried to replace it, but did not find the exact piece, so I purchased from “World Kitchen” two other pieces that I liked, today I received an e-mail telling me all the terrible things that could happen to me by using these pieces. Of course I became very concerned, but after reading all of this I feel much better.I think somebody is trying to make a mountain out of an ant hill. By the way, only the last two pieces that I bought where made in China. Everything else, including Pyrex bought 10 years ago where made in USA.

  7. Tommy 57 says:

    my wife served brocolli with cheese sauce in a pyrex dish at a dinner party last sat.Since I was cohost I was the last to serve myself.I took onescoop of broccolli with a table spoon,and went for a second scoop and bwam the dish exploded sending shards flying into the surrounding entres.i don’t think i did anything to cause this and the dish had been sitting in a potholder for at least ten minutes.this is or should say was a world kitchen pyrex dish.we will Never purchase one again!avoid them,they are dangerous!

  8. Cathleen says:

    A Pyrex explosion occurred in my kitchen last night and it was powerful and frightening. I posted a message on Facebook later in the evening and two friends have had the same experience. I hope that those of you who don’t believe it can happen never have the experience. I would never have believed it myself, as I have used that 9″ x 13″ baking dish for over 20 years without any problems.

  9. Proper thanks are due for this awesome article. I’ve read id for a couple months now and maybe they are always very informative. Thanks!

  10. Catherine says:

    we as consumers should first read the warning labels before buying a product.

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