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Glass Patio Tables Explode Without Warning

Ginger Allen, CBS 11 News
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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Ginger Allen
Ginger is the Senior Investigative Reporter of the CB...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Glass-topped patio tables are shattering into thousands of pieces, and federal records show it’s been happening since at least 2004. And, yet, the government has never put out a safety warning.

It’s happened to Vicki and Richard Boslow of Plano three times. Most recently, they heard a loud explosion and crashing in their backyard over Memorial Day weekend. We found out about it because they are the parents of a CBS employee.

“We were getting ready for our annual pool kick off and about an hour before 20 people were coming, we just heard a pop and looked out the back door and there it was, “ says Richard Boslow.

The pop he heard was their patio table shattering. The Boslows showed us a picture of the table frame still in place with thousands of tiny pieces of glass shards covering the ground directly below it. Cans of sunscreen that were once sitting on the table were scattered in the debris.

Vicki Boslow held her fingers tightly together and explained, “I don’t think any piece was any bigger than that.”

“I don’t know if the glass goes up rather than out, but if a kid was right next to do it, could they be cut?” questioned Mr. Boslow.

The answer is yes. An 11-month old baby from Canada suffered severe injuries to her face. Her family says the exploding table sounded like a shotgun going off. Fortunately, she was able to recover from her injuries. But these reports are nothing new.

“I’m totally surprised that glass could explode like that. I’ve never seen anything like it myself,” says Marquita Davis of Arlington.  CBS 11 interviewed her family in 2007 when she explained how their table also spontaneously shattered. Looking down at the frame, she said, “I mean look at this table. There was glass everywhere. Thank God my family wasn’t here. That’s the only blessing bout this situation.”

Since 2004, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has received more than 140-complaints of tempered-glass tables suddenly exploding. The report show people with cuts and eye injuries.

Dr. Rick Reidy is a glass expert at the University of North Texas in Denton. He says he knows what’s causing the problem and so does the industry. When manufactured correctly, tempered glass is heated and then quickly cooled. It’s almost like shrink wrapping extra layers of protection to the make the glass more durable. But Reidy says there can be an error in that process.

“The problems with tempered glass can be traced to its production. Did we shrink wrap it correctly? Did we get the cooling jets to cool it fast enough to get it shrink wrap?”

The consumer complaints span many manufacturers, so the manufacturing flaw is apparently occurring inside many table-making companies.

“From a consumer standpoint, if I were to buy a new one, I would go look up which tables had the most incidents of failure.”

The Boslows took a different approach and decided to buy a different type table this time.

“It’s hard to imagine that something can’t be done to make them safer or they should warn people it’s possible for it to happen.”

Dr. Reidy says there is one more explanation for the glass shattering. He says some research also points to trapped particles of nickel sulfide that are causing the glass to crack and then shatter.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it is working with the glass industry to set new standards, but these would be only voluntary.

If you’re interested in buying a glass-topped patio table, check to see if the company you’re buying from has any reports of problems.

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