snopes.com is a great source of urban legends. It never fails to fascinate me what is real and what is not:
Claim: Glade Plug-In air fresheners pose a greater-than-usual fire hazard.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2004]
My brother and his wife learned a hard lesson this last week. Their house burned down...nothing left but ashes. They have good insurance, so the home will be replaced and most of the contents. That is the good news. However, they were sick when they found out the cause of the fire.
The insurance investigator sifted through the ashes for several hours. He had the cause of the fire traced to the master bathroom. He asked my sister-in-law what she had plugged in the bathroom. She listed the normal things....curling iron, blow dryer. He kept saying to her, "No, this would be something that would disintegrate at high temperatures." Then, my sister-in-law remembered she had a Glade Plug-in in the bathroom. The investigator had one of those "Aha" moments. He said that was the cause of the fire. He said he has seen more home fires started with the plug in type room fresheners than anything else. He said the plastic they are made from is a THIN plastic. He said in every case there was nothing left to prove that it even existed. When the investigator looked in the wall plug, the two prongs left from the plug-in were still in there.
My sister-in-law had one of the plug-ins that had a small night light built in it. She said she had noticed that the light would dim....and then finally go out. She would walk in a few hours later, and the light would be back on again. The investigator said that the unit was getting too hot, and would dim and go out rather than just blow the light bulb. Once it cooled down, it would come back on. That is a warning sign. The investigator said he personally wouldn't have any type of plug in fragrance device anywhere in his house. He has seen too many burned down homes.
Thought I would warn you all. I had several of them plugged in my house. I immediately took them all down.
early 2002, manufacturer SC Johnson invoked a voluntary recall of their Glade brand 'Extra Outlet Scented Oil Air Fresheners' (a plug-in air freshener which included its own outlet so that consumers wouldn't have to give up an outlet space to use it) because they had found a loose connection inside the extra outlet that might pose a fire hazard. There had been no actual reports of fires property damage associated with the product prior to its recall, however:
In October 1994, Johnson recalled five million Glade plug-in fresheners sold between 1992 and July 1994 as a "precaution" after receving 600 complaints, including "12 allegations about the fresheners being involved in fires."
In 2002, WABC-TV reporter Tappy Phillips covered a story about a possible connection between plug-in air fresheners and home fires, but nothing conclusive was determined. Phillips said the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) showed them "scores of reports from consumers, chronicling fire hazards associated with plug-in air fresheners from various manufacturers," but the CPSC also acknowledged "some fires attributed to air fresheners may be caused by faulty electrical wiring." WABC looked at two instances where air fresheners were suspected in house fires, but the causes of the fires had not been definitively established. (Both cases involved not Glade brand products, but Wallflower, a plug-in air freshener manufactured by the White Barn Candle Company.)
We haven't found a conclusive study establishing that plug-in air fresheners pose a significantly higher fire hazard than other electrical devices. Although fire officials will often recommend that consumers not use plug-in air fresheners, it could be the case that air fresheners are mistakenly being blamed for fires started by other causes (such as faulty wiring), just as cell phones are often falsely cited as the cause of gas station fires attributable to other causes (usually static electricity).
According to the FAQ SC Johnson has now placed on the web site for their Glade brand products:
SC Johnson recently learned that there have been postings on the Internet that have claimed that our products were involved in fires. It's important that you know that all of our PlugIns® products are safe and will not cause fires. We know this because PlugIns® products have been sold for more than 15 years and hundreds of millions of the products are being used safely.
Furthermore, because we are committed to selling safe products, SC Johnson further investigated these rumors. Internally, we confirmed that no one had contacted SC Johnson to tell us about these fires or to ask us to investigate them. Additionally, we were able to have a fire investigation expert call the fire department representative who is identified in one of the Internet postings. That fireman indicated that he has no evidence that our products had caused any fire.
We also know that our products do not cause fires because all of our PlugIns® products have been thoroughly tested by Underwriters Laboratories and other independent laboratories and our products meet or exceed safety requirements.
SC Johnson also has worked closely with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate allegations that PlugIns® products have been involved in fires and CPSC has been satisfied that there is no basis for these allegations.
As a more than 100 year old family-owned company, SC Johnson is committed to providing top quality products that can be used safely in homes and we want to reassure you that PlugIns® products can be used with complete confidence.
Additional information: Looking at Potential Dangers of Plug-In Air Fresheners
(WABC-TV, New York)
Recall of Glade® Extra Outlet Scented Oil Air Fresheners
Last updated: 14 June 2004
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Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2004
by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson
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The [Glasgow] Herald. "Air Fresheners Recalled."
8 October 1994.
WABC-TV, New York. "Looking at Potential Dangers of Plug-In Air Fresheners."
19 April 2002.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. "CPSC, SC Johnson Announce Recall of Glade® Extra Outlet Scented Oil Air Fresheners."
19 April 2002.