22 December 2008

And it feels just like I'm walking on broken glass

Last week, Ben Popken at Consumerist ran a piece on the dangers of glass-topped tables. Under ordinary circumstances, I leave the product safety stuff to other people but this item gave me pause.

What prompted the Consumerist piece was the news that an 11-year-old girl in Rhode Island had recently died from lacerations sustained when she fell into a glass-topped coffee table. Here's the story from the Providence Journal. I mean, I've seen Kill Bill and Kill Bill 2 and I know that glass coffee tables shatter when fights break out in movies, but it never occurred to me that they could do real harm in non-movie situations.

Ben linked to a Consumer Reports article on the same topic where I came across this:
Each year an estimated 20,000 people, most of them children, are treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained from glass furniture. In an average year, three children die. The injuries can turn critical in moments. These grim statistics prompted Consumers Union to make a presentation to ASTM-International in late 2005 recommending that a safety standard be developed to address the hazard posed by glass in furniture. Three years later, a standard is currently under development.

This issue has escaped the attention of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an agency that could easily fix this problem. A requirement to use tempered glass in furniture would virtually eliminate all serious laceration injuries. The CPSC currently requires the use of safety glass in shower doors and storm doors, but not glass tables.
Who knew that there were no regulations in place regarding the use of tempered glass in furniture? I'd always assumed that since things like shower doors and oven fronts had to use tempered glass, that furniture would have to as well. It doesn't surprise me that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been asleep at the wheel about this either. They've more or less been in a coma for the last eight years. This really stinks.

Apparently some manufacturers use tempered glass for their table tops and some don't. You cannot tell from looking at a sheet of glass whether it's tempered or not, so you have to ask. Don't buy anything until you have a solid answer, and even then I'd err on the side of caution. Be careful with the things, tempered or not. I mean, who knew?

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