NBC 6 Investigation: Glass in Desks Spontaneously Explode

Catalina Arango thought the explosion was an intruder in her home.

“Somebody has to be inside--the noise was all over the house! It was crazy,” said Arango, a South Florida mother of two.

The scare turned into disbelief as she rushed toward her seven-year-old’s room to find glass shattered in the hallway and all over his room. A glass desk she had bought at IKEA had spontaneously exploded.

“It was pieces of glass all over his back…cuts on his hands, a few cuts on his arm,” said Arango.

It turns out the first grader was fine— with just scrapes and scratches. But questions linger about what caused the glass to suddenly shatter.

Arango says the desk was just two years old and the family did nothing to cause the glass in it to break. The Arango's aren't the only family who say they had nothing to do with their mysteriously exploding glass. Hall, who lives near Dallas, says no one was home when her Ikea desk shattered.

“It’s just one of those things you don’t think about when buying furniture. You don’t think that it could just blow up on you,” said Hall.

Kamal Aurora is from Vancouver, Canada and says she cut her feet on the glass that landed 15 feet away when her desk shattered in the middle of the night.

"It sounded exactly like a gunshot," said Aurora.

She’s grateful she wasn’t sitting at the desk.

"I definitely would have been seriously injured and i think i would have had some major lacerations and cuts on my arms and body definitely," said Aurora.

Team 6 investigators found more than 20 similar complaints about glass desks from Ikea in the last three years on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website. Team 6 also found videos of broken IKEA desks on YouTube. One video shows a broken table with food on the floor and states, “The table exploded during dinner.”

"Yes, glass can spontaneously explode, especially if it’s tempered," says glass expert Mark Meshulam.

He says there are two possible causes—a chip or knick that weakens the glass post production or an impurity that gets lodged in the glass during the manufacturing process. It can be the size of a very tiny stone.

“Sometimes that little stone can grow just enough to catastrophically break the entire piece of glass without warning without anyone touching it—completely in a seemingly random moment," said Meshulam.

While metal impurities are rare, Meshulam says Ikea sells so much glass, he is certain some of the breakages are caused by impurities.

Ikea declined an on-camera interview, but in a statement said, “Ikea products are safe…routines for quality and safety are comprehensive, but defects may still occur.”

Ikea's says its glass comes “...from plants that are using scanners to detect inclusions in the glass.” The company also says if glass shatters it " often due to some kind of outside damage that has occurred after the production; like transport, handling or normal wear in the household.

The Arango family says they’ve asked Ikea to stop selling the desk, but haven’t heard back.

“I will not buy glass again," said Arango.

She also wants Ikea to put warning labels on their tempered glass products. Her son, Sebastian, agrees.

“All those people who buy it I'm so worried for them—I'm afraid if they have a little kid with them I'm going to be freaking out," said Sebastian.

Meshulam says tempered glass is much safer than regular glass because it breaks into small chunks instead of large sharp shards. Still, he wants the industry to adopt something even safer -- a laminated glass that does not break into pieces.

And it's not just glass tables that shatter.

In the last four years, several hundred consumers complained to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) about exploding glass in everything from oven doors to sinks to shower doors--products purchased from different stores. To search those complaints, click here.

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