Sometimes it takes long while for a company to recall a potentially dangerous product. Case in point: a major recall of some very old surge protectors.
Schneider Electric just announced a recall of 15 million of its SurgeArrest surge protectors (series APC 7 and APC 8) made before 2003. The company warns they can overheat, smoke and start a fire.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said the company had received
- 700 reports of overheating and melting;
- 13 reports of injuries, including smoke inhalation, and burns from touching the overheated device;
- 55 reports of property damage, including a house fire that caused $916,000 in damage and a fire in a medical facility that caused a loss of $750,000.
A report filed on the CPSC public database details an incident that took place Dec. 24, 2011, involving one of the now-recalled Schneider units:
By the time I reached the top of the stairs smoke was filling the room and I saw my girlfriend standing over the surge protector while it was on fire. Fire was coming from the open outlets and had actually melted through the bottom.
The room was filled with black smoke and burn marks were on the wood floor. The surge protector appears fine on top but actually has a hole melted through the bottom.
The APC SurgeArrest surge protectors involved in this recall were made in China and the Philippines. They were sold at Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, and other stores nationwide from 1993 to 2002 for between $13 and $50. The devices plug into the wall and are supposed to protect electronics from power surges.
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If you have one of these recalled surge protectors, unplug it right away and contact the company for a free replacement. You can call Schneider Electric IT Corp. toll-free at (888) 437-4007 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Or go to http://recall.apc.com to submit a claim for a free replacement.
Why the delay?
The CPSC's recall notice raises an obvious question. Why did it take so long for Schneider Electric to act? How could it have received more than 700 reports of problems—including fires and injuries—without issuing a recall?
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In a statement to NBC News, the company said these "rare incidents" took place in "certain unusual circumstances" in less than 0.01 percent of the product models included in the recall.