Glade Plug-Ins Air Fresheners a Fire Hazard?

A Review of the Research and Company Statement

glade plugins
(Photo from Amazon)

An email rumor started in May 2004 alleges that Glade PlugIns air fresheners have been proven to pose a serious fire hazard and should not be used in the home.

Email Example of Glade PlugIn Rumor

Here's an email example contributed by J. Ramirez on May 25, 2004.

Subject: Fwd: FW: Fire Hazard? - Plug in air fresheners

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 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 PlugIn 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.

Manufacturer Maintains the Product Is Proven Safe

SC Johnson, the manufacturer of Glade PlugIn brand air fresheners, has stated that all the devices it currently sells have been thoroughly tested and proven safe when used as directed. Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission presided over a voluntary recall of 2.5 million "misassembled" Glade Extra Outlet Scented Oil Air Fresheners in 2002 on grounds that they "could pose a risk of fire," no agency warnings on any make or model of plug-in air fresheners have been issued since.

Anecdotal Reports Unfounded

As noted in a May 2002 article in the Milwaukee Business Journal, the Consumer Product Safety Commission acknowledged investigating "scores" of complaints pertaining to the safety of plug-in air fresheners around that time but found no cause for further action.

Some fire victims interviewed in TV news reports during the 2002 recall blamed plug-in air fresheners for damage to their homes; although a similar product made by a different company was named as the probable cause of one fire, no Glade brand air fresheners were found to be at fault.

In 2002, a class action lawsuit was filed alleging that a faulty Glade PlugIn air freshener had ignited, resulting in $200,000 worth of damage to a Chicago home. The suit, which contended that other consumers had suffered similar damages, accused SC Johnson of negligence for not warning the public that its products could overheat and cause fires.

According to the company, the presiding judge denied class action certification to the case due to lack of merit, and a modest settlement was agreed upon out of court.

Independent Tests Show No Product Malfunction

An independent investigation conducted by Underwriters Laboratories, a nonprofit safety certification firm, found that none of the malfunctions reported anecdotally could be duplicated in a laboratory setting, and concluded that fires attributed to Glade product defects were probably the result of faulty home wiring instead.

Internet Rumors Are False, Says Glade Manufacturer

According to a statement from S.C. Johnson:

Company Response to Internet Rumor on Glade PlugIns®

SC Johnson recently learned that there have been postings on the Internet that have claimed that our products were involved in fires. It is 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.

Because we are committed to selling safe products, SC Johnson thoroughly investigated these rumors. First, we confirmed that no one had contacted SC Johnson to tell us about these fires or to ask us to investigate them. Additionally, we had a leading 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 suspect this rumor may be associated with a past SC Johnson voluntary recall of one of its air freshener products, a Glade® Extra Outlet Scented Oil product that was sold for a short period before June 1, 2002. After discovering an assembly error in a small number of that product, SC Johnson implemented a voluntary recall and provided extensive information about the product to the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission (CPSC). After revising the manufacturing process and thorough testing for proper assembly, the Glade® PlugIns® Scented Oil Extra Outlet product returned to store shelves on June 3, 2002. SC Johnson has no knowledge of any credible reports of fire related to this product.

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 continues to work closely with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate allegations involving PlugIns® products.

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.

The Verdict

This rumor is false. All the available evidence indicates that Glade brand plug-in air fresheners do not constitute a proven fire hazard.

Sources

  • ConsumerWatch: Plug-Ins Pose No Fire Threat. TheOmahaChannel.com, July 15, 2004
  • Buyer Beware: Glade Plug-Ins Email. TheBostonChannel.com, July 7, 2004
  • CPSC, SC Johnson Announce Recall of Glade® Extra Outlet Scented Oil Air Fresheners. Recall-Warnings.com, April 19, 2002
  • Complaints Mount Against Glade Plug-Ins . Milawaukee Business Journal, May 24, 2002
  • Plug It In, Plug It In?. Columnist Walter Jowers home-tests the safety of plug-in air fresheners, February 5, 2002
  • Looking At Potential Dangers Of Plug-In Air Fresheners. WABC-TV News, April 19, 2002