Almost all households in the United States have at least one standard gas or electric oven in the kitchen utilized for cooking, heating, roasting and baking foods such as meats, casseroles and other goods. Many modern homes have two standard ovens in addition to a microwave, electric or gas range and other cooking appliances.
Ovens generally contain heating elements or a heat source beneath the internal racks on which food is placed. However, most have broiling capability by means of an additional top heat source, for optional use. Some are also equipped with other functionalities, such as integrated rotisseries, steam heating, built-in microwaves and self-cleaning modes.
As of 2001, 99.7 percent of all U.S. homes had at least one standard oven. Thirty-eight percent of these homes contained gas ovens while 62 percent contained electric ovens.
Defects in the manufacturing and design of residential ovens can cause burns, electrocution, electric shock, gas or smoke inhalation and property damage. Common defects are due to faulty wiring and components, ineffective door seals or locking mechanisms, improperly functioning heating elements, overheating of units, gas leaks and other design flaws.
Ovens can reach temperatures in excess of 550 degrees during the self-cleaning mode and, consequently, present risks of burns and fire. Due to their utilization of electricity or gas, exposed heating elements and hot surfaces, ovens enable a multitude of hazards even when used properly by consumers. On top of the risks involved in correct operation, many recalls occur each year when oven defects are discovered by consumers or the manufacturer that violate the safety standards established by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Examples of recalls due to general product failure include:
- In 2004, 1400 wall ovens were recalled for defective construction that allowed the oven exterior to heat to unsafe temperatures during use.
- In 2001, 2300 ovens were recalled due to faulty door locks that failed to engage during self-cleaning mode. The malfunctioning lock allowed for the door to be opened during the cleaning phase. Due to the introduction of oxygen during this process, this could result in flash fires within the oven.
- Before injuries were reported, a Turkish oven manufacturer recalled 3000 ovens sold within the United States due to a defect that allowed moisture to build up on heating elements, causing an increased risk of electrocution for users.
- In 2004, faulty wiring increased the risk of overheating and resulted in a recall of over 28,000 wall ovens by one manufacturer.
Examples of injury and property damage resulting from oven defects and documented by the Consumer Product Safety Commission include:
- Thirty-five incidents of oven overheating, property damage and one fatality were reported as a result of defects in Amana’s Modern Maid gas wall ovens in 1995.
- In 2008, Frigidaire Canada recalled 7,500 Kenmore wall ovens due to gas buildup within the oven cavity. Upon door opening, flash fires occurred, resulting in 16 reports of burns.
- In 2008, General Electric recalled 244,000 ovens after 28 incidents of property damage resulted from intense heat that escaped during the self-cleaning mode.
From 1999 to 2003, the use of kitchen ovens initiated 179,100 home fires, resulting in 550 deaths and 10,100 injuries. Structural and property damage resulting from oven fires during this period was valued at $1.2 billion. Of the ovens that caused the damage and fatalities, 75,200 were gas-operated and 103,900 were electric-operated.
According to the Fire Analysis and Research Division of the National Fire Protection Agency, kitchen ranges and ovens account for 59 percent of all home fires, 88 percent of associated civilian deaths and 77 percent of home fire injuries. Ninety-two percent of burn injuries associated with ovens are caused by non-fire contact with heated surfaces. In 2008, American emergency rooms saw 17,700 patients with thermal injuries caused by oven use.