Safety Glass: Anything But?

President Barack Obama gestures while speaking to military personnel at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, on April 7, 2009.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Instead of blocking a shot, high school senior Brett Turman shattered his lifelong dreams.

The accident cost him the full use of his right hand and any chance for a college basketball scholarship. Twelve-year-old Zech Darmanin crashed through a window while rollerblading.

"I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to die,'" says Darmanin.

He lost half his blood, and as CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports, he's still in bandages.

"It was just horrible," says his mother Lisa Darmanin.

She says it looked like he got cut with a chainsaw.

"It didn't look like he got cut with glass," she says.

The young men were injured by wired glass used in schools, hospitals and athletic facilities as a fire deterrent. Often referred to as safety glass, its critics call it anything but.

"When it is impacted, you not only break through the glass but you also go through the wire," says Greg Abel, of Advocates for Safe Glass.

Abel launched a one-man crusade against wired glass after his son was severely injured.

"Once you go through you have to try to come back out, and all these shards of glass are being held into this penetrated opening," says Abel.

A study by an Emory University professor found most of the 2,500 annual glass door injuries in schools involve wired glass, because it's only half the strength of regular plate glass, critics say.

Back in 1977 the consumer product safety commission gave the manufacturers of wired glass a temporary exemption from strength requirements because at the time, it was the only kind of glass that slowed the spread of fire.

"Wired glass slows the spread of fire by staying in place, staying in the frame and not allowing flames and hot gasses to pass through the opening," says Willam Koffel, a spokesman for the wired glass industry.

Oregon state senator Vicki Walker says the consumer product safety commission dropped the ball.

"They're not doing anything about wired glass," says Walker. "The injuries are there."

Walker convinced her state to ban wired glass in all new construction and replace it in some old schools.

The wired glass industry vows to fight any kind of similar blanket ban. The consumer product safety commission and the industry say the number of injuries cannot be confirmed.

"Wired glass would be a safe product when used properly," says Koffel.

But not according to Abel, who worries about the thousands of old buildings with wired glass.

"It's extremely frightening because it's an accident waiting to happen," he says.

Accidents that have left behind painful memories and devastating scars.