British Columbia

'Pieces of glass were flying everywhere': Why glass dishes can explode unexpectedly

A Victoria woman says her new glass mixing bowl exploded for no reason. We asked an expert why this might happen and asked a lawyer if the woman is entitled to a refund.

Health Canada has 126 reports of glass dishes exploding since 2014

Marina Hill of Victoria said her mixing bowl exploded into tiny pieces while just sitting on the counter. (Marina Hill)

You might say it's a breaking story.

A woman in Victoria says she is lucky she wasn't hurt when a brand-new glass mixing bowl violently shattered in her home, seemingly for no reason.

"I heard a loud bang and then the largest bowl [from a set of 10] exploded," Marina Hill said, speaking in the kitchen where the incident occurred.

"Pieces of glass were flying everywhere — and I mean everywhere.

"I literally put my hands up in front of my face to shield myself from the glass."

Marina Hill sits in her Victoria kitchen where she says a mixing bowl shattered and burst while unattended. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

It's an unusual story but not unheard of. 

One expert says tiny imperfections, impurities or poor formulations of glass can cause catastrophic failure.

Hill said she tried to get a refund but the store, a Home Outfitters at Tillicum Mall, said all sales were final because of the chain's liquidation.

A lawyer told CBC News that's an unacceptable response; any customer in a similar situation is entitled by law to a refund.

Shards of glass flew everywhere after the bowl exploded, Hill said. (Marina Hill)

'Popping and spraying'

Hill said she purchased the set of 10 nesting bowls on the afternoon of June 14 for about $40 and took them home straight away.

She set the bowls — labelled "Made in the U.S.A." — on the counter and was about to clean them. The largest bowl still had the second-largest bowl inside.

Marina Hill said one of the bowls that came in the set exploded violently in her kitchen — for no reason. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The temperature in the kitchen was "normal," she said. Not too hot, not too cold.

The phone rang and she went to answer it. Ten minutes later, the bowl, about three metres away, burst.

"I left the room. I was just scared to death," Hill recounted. "It continued popping and spraying glass for another 10 or 15 minutes.

"It looked like a war had taken place in here!"

Marina Hill swept up the remains of her largest mixing bowl and bagged them up to show the store. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

'It's not fit for its intended purpose if it explodes'

David Klein, managing partner of the Klein Lawyers firm in Vancouver, says Hill should have been given her money back.

Under the B.C. Sale of Goods Act, a seller guarantees that the product sold is fit for its intended purpose.

"It's not fit for its intended purpose if it explodes," Klein said. "The store should clearly be refunding the money."

Marina Hill displays the remaining bowls from the set. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

A spokesperson for HBC, which owns Home Outfitters, said the company wants to make things right with Hill. 

A spokesperson for Martha Stewart, whose company manufactured the bowls, did not answer CBC News' questions by deadline.

126 cases since 2014

Health Canada said since 2014, there have been 126 documented cases of glass dishes shattering unexpectedly, including 71 cases where temperature was not a factor.

Temperature change may cause glass to expand or contract and break. In the U.S. and Canada several products — including a glass teapot — have been recalled over their inability to handle temperature changes.

An American class-action lawsuit claims the makers of Pyrex glass products changed its formula, making the products more likely to shatter from temperature changes.

Precision crafting

Benjamin Kikkertt, owner and chief designer of Vancouver Studio Glass, said glass can be surprisingly durable but only if it is made correctly.

"Could have been an impurity in the glass, could have been a disruption in the production cycle … Somewhere in the cooling and the contraction part," Kikkert said while discussing Hill's case. 

Mistakes in the crafting of a product can introduce strain that may cause it to shatter, sometimes forcefully, at any time.

"It may last a day, it may last 10 years," he continued. "Something happened to disrupt the surface tension of that object and the strain to let go."

Hill wants the mixing bowls she purchased recalled. She feels they're not safe.

With files from Ethan Sawyer and Paisley Woodward

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