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Kenmore electric range model 790.9280, stainless steel free-standing
Kitchen
Appliances
Electric Ranges or Ovens (Excl Counter-top Ovens) (278)
Sears Holdings Management Corporation    
Kenmore
790.92803015
VF14445841
 
 
Sears
Massachusetts
12/10/2011
I bought a new Kenmore electric range, model 790.9280, in December, from the Sears in the Holyoke Mall, Holyoke, MA. It was delivered and installed by the Sears delivery crew on 12/12/11. Within a day or two following delivery, I read the "Getting started..." paper ("Read 1st") and noticed the section as follows:
"Q. When I used my oven for the first time there was an odor and some smoking?
A. It's possible to experience some odors and/or a small amount of smoke from your new range. The odor will diminish after first using your oven. Before cooking in your oven for the first time, we recommend that you turn the oven ON to 400o F for 30 minutes minimum. This will allow for an initial burn-in period. You may also ventilate the kitchen by opening a window."

Thinking this sounded like a good idea, I followed this direction, heating the stove to 400o for approximately 45 minutes, turning on the kitchen exhaust and hood fans, and (even though it was December) opening the kitchen and bathroom windows. The stove produced a noxious odor and I observed some smoke coming from the oven's vent above the rear left corner of the cooktop. The smell was bad, but not intolerable.

Thinking that this was adequate, based on the information quoted above, a few days later I baked an acorn squash in the oven, at 425o for approximately 50 minutes (I had preheated the oven, too). During baking I noticed a light noxious odor, the same as noted during the initial use, but told myself that this was just "burn in" as above, and that it probably wouldn't ruin the food. The squash cooked beautifully, but, alas, was inedible: I took one bite, and tasted a horrible metallic/lighter fluid tang, which hit me like a punch to the stomach. I didn't even compost the rest of the squash, it went right into the trash.

A few days later I baked a small frozen pizza in the oven, approximately 11 minutes at 400o, preheating again, and found to my dismay that its flavor, too, was spoiled by the taste of burnt metal and solvents. I resolved not to bake anything else in the oven until this noxious problem was resolved.

The holidays came and went, but on the evening of Monday, January 2, I thought that I would deal with the oven. After putting my 1-year old daughter to sleep (I wouldn't want her exposed to nasty fumes), I started this project at about 9 pm. Expecting an odor (but not expecting what subsequently happened), I opened the kitchen and adjacent bathroom windows, turned on the hood and kitchen exhaust fans, and duct-taped sheets over the doorway to the living room. I cleaned the cooktop, removed the wire racks, and wiped down the inside of the oven, which appeared to be absolutely clean. I then turned on the the Flex Clean (self-cleaning) feature, set for 2 hours. After Flex Clean was running for approximately 30 minutes, the smell in the kitchen was so foul that I was forced to turn it off. Smoke was pouring from the oven exhaust vent, though I saw no smoke in the oven cavity itself (though the interior light wasn't on, so maybe I missed it). The smell was so horrible that it gave my wife a headache almost instantly. My eyes stung and my throat was sore. By 11 pm, while I was trying to figure out how to protect my house and family from the noxious fumes, I had a stomachache, and when I finally went to bed at approximately 11:30, I left the windows open and fans running, despite it being a cold winter night. The odor had stuck to my clothes so I dropped them in the kitchen, but I still smelled it getting into bed: it was in my hair and on my skin.

On Tuesday, January 3 I awoke at 6:30 (before my daughter) to try to clean the house. To my utter dismay, the noxious smell had not decreased at all overnight. In fact, it had seeped through the barrier I had taped up, and was causing my living area to be uninhabitable. Once my wife and daughter had gotten out of bed, my wife did the best she could to keep my daughter from heading to the living room and kitchen. Meanwhile, I scrambled around the house with my HEPA vacuum, hoping that that would reduce the odor. The kitchen was practically impossible to enter, the smell was so bad. I threw the coats, towels, etc. that had been exposed to the fumes in the clotheswasher, and called the fire department. Shortly thereafter, three firemen came to my door with a high-powered fan that they use to clear smoke out of burning houses. They opened a window in every room of the house, and operated the fan for approximately 20 minutes, blowing air out the kitchen window. (This, despite it being about 10o F outside.) After the firemen had gone, my wife thought the smell had decreased, but I wasn't sure, and within about 20 minutes of their leaving, my sense was that the odor was as bad as it had ever been.

I went to work late on Tuesday, thanks to trying to protect my family from the odors caused by a should-be normal function of this Kenmore range. On leaving, I left the fans running and the windows open. My wife and daughter evacuated the house. On returning home at approximately 8 pm (we ate out, since our kitchen is unusable with the odor), I found that the odor had not abated. To the present (Saturday January 7) the smell has still not abated, and our pattern has remained similar. We are avoiding the kitchen to the extent possible, only entering it to use the sink or access the refrigerator in the evenings and mornings, generally leaving the house during the day.

I have spoken many times with Sears' customer service about this problem. Eventually they were able to provide a replacement stove. As fine as it is to get a replacement stove, there remain significant problems. My kitchen is unusable (perhaps if I had self-contained breathing apparatus, I could in fact use my kitchen as normal, but I don't).

I believe my daughter's health to be in jeopardy simply by breathing the air in my house, based on the ill effects my wife and I are experiencing after being exposed to these odors for a several minutes. I am now thinking that I will need to have professional cleaning done to resolve the noxious odor. One of the frustrations I have encountered is that I cannot discover what the chemicals involved in the odor are, and what the health risks associated with those chemicals are. To have a noxious chemical smell persist in one's home for several days, a smell that makes healthy adults feel ill after several minutes of exposure, but not to know anything else about it, is very anxiety-provoking, especially when a baby also lives in the home.

It has now been more than five continuous days of having windows open and fans running in my kitchen and adjacent bathroom, 24 hours a day. This has been the coldest period we've had since last winter; overnight lows on a couple of the nights have been in the single digits. The noxious odor in my kitchen is scarcely reduced from when I shut the Flex Clean cycle off, and my family and I cannot use the kitchen. We have had to eat take-out or eat out--not our habit at all--each day. Sears' customer service by phone has not been particularly helpful (I've had to explain that it is an electric stove and that there is no gas leak, etc., a couple of times, for example). I believe that we are avoiding the worst exposure, and are therefore protecting our health, but the first night of this incident my wife and I suffered ill effects from exposure to these fumes.

Based on the number of comments on mysears.com, Consumer Reports, and other appliance-related websites, the problem with noxious odors being emitted by new stoves is a known issue. Even with a low-probability occurrence, it is unconscionable for manufacturers of such appliances to not "burn in" stoves in their own factories or other controlled environment. My kitchen should not be the place where coatings, solvents, adhesives, or other chemicals are vaporized after manufacturing.

I have several questions:
-- what should I do now?
-- what chemicals comprise the odor?
-- do those chemicals pose a health risk in this situation (especially to a baby)?
-- how do I get rid of the odor?
-- what steps will Sears take to ensure that additional range buyers are not subjected to this experience?

I have sent a similar report to Sears via its website, but felt that the situation is serious enough to warrant formal reporting with the CPSC.
1/2/2012
Home/Apartment/Condominium 
Injury→Injury, No First Aid or Medical Attention Received
Self
Male
37 years

Injury→Injury, No First Aid or Medical Attention Received
My Spouse
Female
36 years

Injury→Injury, Level of care not known
My Child
Female
1 years
Yes
N/A
No
I am in the process of getting a replacement stove. I have spoken several times over this week to Sears customer service.
Yes
N/A
Comment from Sears Holdings Management Corporation 1/18/2012
Sears Holdings takes product safety issues very seriously. We investigate each CPSC database incident report. We encourage our customers to provide additional information about incidents to our Customer Care Network, by calling 800-549-4505.

CPSC does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of the Publicly Available Consumer Product Safety Information Database on SaferProducts.gov, particularly with respect to information submitted by people outside of CPSC.