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
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
• 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
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?