U.S. Water News Online
TOKYO -- A Japanese gas appliance maker has denied its
water heaters were to blame for the deaths of 15 people from carbon
monoxide poisoning, and said an earlier investigation found that
heaters had been improperly modified.
The 15 fatalities occurred between 1985 and 2005 and were among 17
reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning linked to water heaters
made by Paloma Ltd., said Mai Yaguchi, an official at the Economy,
Trade and Industry Ministry.
The company's customer service official Masaru Kato said 19 other
people were injured, including two seriously, in the reported
Yaguchi said the ministry began gathering information about
accidents related to water heaters after receiving several similar
reports from gas companies earlier this month.
Shozo Maeda, a spokesman for Nagoya-based Paloma, said the company
carried out its own investigation in 1992 when two cases of carbon
monoxide poisoning were first reported and found "no structural
defect" in the water heaters. He said in some of the fatal cases, an
exhaust fan had been incorrectly attached by either the user or a
local gas company and failed to expel the gas outside, Maeda said.
"There is no problem so long as our product is used normally,"
Maeda quoted Paloma President Hiroaki Kobayashi as telling at a news
conference in Nagoya, central Japan.
But Kyodo said police has begun a criminal investigation into a
fatal case in Tokyo on suspicion of professional negligence.
About 260,000 water heaters in seven models were produced and sold
in Japan between 1980 and 1989, Kato said.
He said the company does not plan recalling them because the
problems were caused by "unauthorized modification."
Paloma has faced two lawsuits by the affected users but reached
out-of-court settlements, Kyodo said.
The ministry has asked Paloma to set up an office to receive
inquiries from customers about the heaters, Yaguchi said.
Paloma was to publish a notice in national newspapers, offering
inspection for the seven models and urging users not to make improper
modification on the products.
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