The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received reports of at least seven tempered glass desks from IKEA spontaneously shattering. While no recall has been issued, NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit looked into why the desks, which do not all have the same design, are breaking and what’s being done.
One of the CPSC reports came from Honey Grove resident Kayla Hall. She came home from work several weeks ago to find her IKEA glass desk had spontaneously shattered. Pieces were everywhere, she said, in every corner of the room, on top of other furniture and even in the hallway.
“Pieces had gone under the door into the closet, which is across the room. Anywhere it could get, it pretty much was,” Hall said.
Hall bought the desk months before, which was black and clear with images of butterflies and flowers, at IKEA in Frisco.
“IKEA had the best prices,” said Hall. “And I liked the style of the things they had. And when I saw that desk it had the flowers and the butterflies. I thought this it’s cute. It’s girly. I like it.”
Hall spent hours every day studying at the desk for her CPA exam. She said she was thankful no one was home, her dogs were in their crates and no one was injured when the desk broke.
“No Way to Predict” When, If Tempered Glass May Fail
“There’s really no way to predict when and where this is going to happen,” said Lee Green, a professional engineer at Goodson Engineering in Denton who studies things like glass failures. “You can have a glass table in service for two, four, 10 years before it finally fails.”
But experts like Green said though these breakages are rare, there are typically explanations. The most common reason is if the glass gets hit or nicked. Even a tiny tap or nick can eventually cause the glass to break. But if a hit or nick or scratch can be ruled out, the other the reason tempered glass may spontaneously break is because there may be an impurity or inclusion left in the glass during the manufacturing process.
“They are microscopic flaws in the glass that can’t be detected easily,” explained John Waskow, also a professional engineer and the director of regional operations for Architectural Testing, a company with a Southlake facility that assesses whether glass in buildings meets safety standards.
These tiny flaws, while rare, occur in the tempering process, ironically the very same process that makes glass stronger and safer.
“Roughly one percent of all glass produced can be expected to fail spontaneously at some point during its life,” Waskow said.
Hall said nothing fell on her desk and she didn’t believe it had any hits or nicks.
But to figure out why her desk broke would take a lot of time, and it would be costly, so she may never know the exact reason. But her tempered glass desk did break as it was supposed to, into tiny chucks and not into sharp chards of regular glass.
NBC 5 contacted the CPSC about Hall’s desk and the other IKEA desks.
“From the reports and pictures we received, the tempered glass broke into nugget-sized pieces as the standard requires. This raises a question about whether this is a quality or safety issue,” said Alex Filip, a spokesman for the CPSC.
NBC 5 also contacted IKEA spokeswoman Mona Astra Liss, who said that IKEA’S glass has one of the most rigorous testing processes of the entire IKEA product range.
“Fragmentation tests are made daily at our process suppliers and are continuously followed up by our purchasing teams in quality reviews,” Liss said in a statement.
The statement also said: “Sometimes the tension caused by a strike, a knock or a scratch stays in the glass. A very small impact can make the glass shatter, hours or even months later. This is why glass, at rare occasions, may seem to shatter for no apparent reason.”
In an email to Hall, IKEA apologized and told her, “The safety of our customers is very important.”
The letter went on to say that the company would file a report with its quality and safety group in Sweden. IKEA also issued her a refund.
“It’s just one of those things you don’t think about when you’re buying furniture. You don’t think that it could suddenly just blow up on you,” Hall said.
The CPSC reviews every report filed on its website, SaferProducts.gov, and notifies the named manufacturer within five days of the report being filed, Filip said. So the agency encourages consumers with a product safety or standard concern to file a report.
“The more reports on SaferProducts.gov, the more information CPSC and other consumers have to evaluate a product safety issue. Details like the make, model and serial number of the product are very helpful when filing a report on SaferProducts.gov,” he said.
Hall said she intends to steer clear of a glass when she looks to buy another desk.
“I definitely won’t be going with glass again,” Hall said.
Waskow, on the other hand, isn’t concerned. He told NBC 5, coincidentally, he has an IKEA glass desk with butterflies and flowers, just like the one purchased by Hall’s, in his daughter’s room.
“My daughter uses it and I have no issues or concerns with it,” he said.