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Shattering Shower Doors

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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) – Imagine standing inside your shower. You hear a loud noise. Glass flies all over the room. And, suddenly a pool of glass shards is surrounding you. You’re standing in your most vulnerable state with only one way out…through a path of shattered glass.

You’ve probably heard about Pyrex dishes and glass patio tables spontaneously exploding, but now CBS 11 is learning about reports of shower doors shattering unexpectedly. Sometimes it happens in the middle of the night with no one around, but other times it is happening when the person is showering.

The reports on social media sites, like Twitter, have pictures attached to them with glass covering bathroom floors. Captions read: “Shower doors do explode.” “What a way to be woken up.” Some of them show chilling images of bloody footprints where the unsuspecting victim had only one way to escape.

Teresa Albertson explains how it happened to her earlier this summer. “It shot out six-to-eight-feet from the bathroom.” Albertson explains that she had never heard of the problem until she went on line.

We also searched on line and discovered it’s not just happening inside homes but also inside hotels. We dug through court records and found a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year against the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. A woman, who stayed at the hotel in 2007, says she opened a shower door and suddenly “the force of an explosion” threw here “violently across the toilet” and caused her “serious injuries.” Pictures are filed with the lawsuit showing tiny particles of glass layered on the hotel bathroom and filling the toilet.

Another couple posts video on Vimeo showing what allegedly happened to them during their Hawaiian honeymoon at the Ohana Hotel in Waikiki West. You can hear the water running from the shower, see his wife standing in the water, and feel her pain as she obviously had to find a way out through shattered glass all over the floor. The new groom, Lance Ogren, looks into his own home video camera and says, “I heard her start to open (the shower) and I heard a big crash.” Ogren tells CBS 11 news the hotel gave them an apology and a new room.

“Hotels need to be really vigilant about this problem,” says Mark Meshulam. Meshulam is a glass expert who says he may soon testify in three cases where guests were injured when their shower doors shattered. “The two main types of injuries are where their bodies get cut and the other ones are where they are walking out on glass and cutting their feet.”

Meshulam says most shower doors have tempered glass which is heated and then cooled creating tension for durability. He demonstrated how hard it is to break slamming a hammer into a tempered glass shower door several times before it finally shatters. He says the door are considered safe because under stress they shatter into tiny pieces; however, he says there are several reasons why a shower door might explode.

One is a small crack, like the one in your windshield, that just slowly grows out like a spider web. “When it hits a certain part of the glass where all those internal tensions are residing then everything blows up.” He also says towel bars might not be installed properly. Or, doors may not slide on the tracks correctly. These can cause pressure over time. Finally, there could be a problem during the manufacturing process if a microscopic grain of nickel sulfide gets trapped inside the glass. This manufacturing defect is a “ticking time bomb.”

“Faster than an eye blink the entire piece of glass is obliterated into a thousand pieces and then it drops.”

We checked with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and more than 60-complaints since 2004 involve reports of injuries, surgeries and settlements because of exploding shower doors. Meshulam believes there are thousands more unreported cases from people, like the Albertsons, who had no idea this could happen.

“I didn’t know this was a possibility. We’re just lucky no one was in the bathroom, ” says Albertson.

Here’s what you can do to check your shower:
Look for cracks especially around the edges of the glass.
Make sure the top and bottom of your door are sliding evenly against the bumper rather than hitting the metal frame and rocking back and forth.
Make sure the towel racks are installed cracked.
And, of course, never let your children hang on them.
The CPSC is waiting on the glass industry which is reportedly exploring other, safer glass options.

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