Dishwashers in kitchens across the country are catching fire without warning.
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A national investigation by Scripps TV stations -- including the 10News I-Team -- is revealing thousands of people reporting the same problem: dishwasher maker Whirlpool selling a potentially hazardous appliance.
Escondido resident Bill Mariano calls his dishwasher "a dangerous product."
"After the kids went to bed, I turned on the dishwasher and went in to watch TV and about 15 minutes later I started smelling the distinct smell of burning plastic," he said.
Across the country, others have reported that burning smell, too. Scripps affiliates in Cincinnati, Detroit, Phoenix, Cleveland, Baltimore, Denver and Florida documented victims in each city.
Mariano told the I-Team he knows what caused his fire.
"There's the circuit board right there," he showed 10News cameras. "This is the part that catches on fire."
Mariano's Kenmore Elite dishwasher, a offshoot brand of Whirlpool, had charred wiring and melted plastic casing inside the dishwasher door.
"The problem is a defective design in the control panel," explained Baltimore attorney Charles Fax, who is working on a class-action lawsuit against Whirlpool.
Fax claims hundreds of thousands of dishwashers sold under their brand names, including Whirlpool, KitchenAid and Kenmore, have a defective control unit including the circuit board.
"California is really the center of the problem," Fax said. "We have many, many complaints from California."
"A lot of people put the dishwasher on before they go to bed," Mariano said. "So it's a perfect storm kind of disaster just waiting to happen if it hasn't already."
While fire investigation reports the I-Team obtained can't prove a pattern, they did show there is a potential problem with some dishwashers around the country.
The federal government knows there's a problem. Between March 2011 and November 2011, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) logged more than 260 dishwasher incidents on its public website, saferproducts.gov
. Of those, more than half reported smoke or flames.
That online forum publicized a few hundred potential disasters, but the I-Team investigation found more than 1,600 complaints that are not published by the CPSC. The reports are only made public when requested.
In five years worth of internal data, 80 percent of the time consumers reported a fire.
The I-Team asked which brands are mentioned in those cases, but the CPSC won't say until it gets permission from the companies involved.
While the government isn't pointing fingers at any brand, consumers are.
Many consumers are posting on websites like kitchenaidfire.com
. The posts show people like Mariano aren't alone.
"Do you feel lucky nothing bad happened that this thing didn't catch on fire?" 10News I-Team reporter Mitch Blacher asked.
"Yeah, I feel very lucky, but there's still a lot of them out there," Mariano said.
Whirlpool released the following statement:
Whirlpool Corporation builds its dishwashers with, among many other state-of-the-art safety features, components that turn off power to the electronic control board in the extremely unlikely event that the control board begins to overheat. The safety features are designed to limit potential damage to the unit.
General Electric released this statement regarding its dishwashers:
GE takes pride in the quality and safety of its dishwashers. Product safety is a fundamental commitment at GE, and our appliances-including all GE dishwashers-meet applicable third-party industry safety requirements. GE investigates reported safety issues, and initiates corrective action when appropriate, including notifying consumers in cooperation with appropriate agencies. Consumers with questions or concerns about any GE appliance product are encouraged to contact the GE Answer Center toll free at 1-800-626-2005.
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