• Kyodo

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Paloma Co. revealed Tuesday five more people died of carbon monoxide poisoning from its gas water heaters between 1985 and 2005, bringing the number of reported deaths to 20.

The Nagoya-based business group also announced another 10 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by products from its manufacturing arm, Paloma Industries Ltd., in addition to the 17 reported last week by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Paloma President Hiroaki Kobayashi on Tuesday apologized for the first time, after having argued that unauthorized alterations of the products’ safety apparatus were to blame for the poisonings.

“Having seen the number of accidents increase from what was announced earlier, I am sorry that we did not acknowledge” the problem, Kobayashi told a news conference.

Asked whether he would step down to take responsibility, however, Kobayashi said he has “no intention of resigning to run away. (I) would like to win back the trust the company has lost.”

But his father, Chairman Toshihiro Kobayashi, 68, said he intends to resign when safety checks are complete.

The newly reported fatalities are of two people who died in Obihiro, Hokkaido in 1990, two in Akita in 1994 and one in Fukuoka in 1992.

The company said it will replace free of charge the four types of heaters that leaked carbon monoxide as well as three similar models.

The four water heater models involved in the fatalities are the series PH-81F, PH-101F, PH-102F and PH-131F, manufactured between 1980 and 1989. The three others that Paloma is offering to replace are the PH-82F, PH-132F and PH-161F, made during the same period.

The government revealed Friday that between 1985 and 2005, Paloma water heaters were responsible for 17 cases of carbon monoxide leaking indoors and had killed 15 people, as the fans were not expelling the exhaust outside.

Of the 27 carbon monoxide cases, 14 were caused after alterations were made to the heater’s safety device.

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