Paloma Industries Ltd. has issued a recall for some 260,000 gas water heaters made between 1980 and 1989 after they were linked to 20 carbon monoxide deaths since that time and the president was summoned Wednesday to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and told to speed up the firm’s probe into the fatalities and to take preventive steps.

Kenkichi Hirose, head of the ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, told Paloma President Toshihiro Kobayashi and another senior official in charge of water heater production to “check all products in question as quickly as possible,” and find out why some people had altered the safety device on its heaters, which led to several of the fatalities.

Kobayashi apologized and told reporters after the meeting that the firm plans to finish checking the safety of all its products in a month.

There have been 27 reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning from the gas water heaters, in which 20 people have died and more than 30 people have been injured.

The ministry has set up a special committee to review Paloma product safety and strengthen measures to help prevent any more water heater accidents.

The Nagoya-based manufacturer and its parent, Paloma Co., which sells its products, issued a recall for the four problem models and three others, offering to replace them for free with new models.

The four models that leaked are PH-81F, PH-101F, PH-102F and PH-131F, and the three similar heaters are PH-82F, PH-132F and PH-161F. They were all manufactured between 1980 and 1989, and about 260,000 were sold.

Meanwhile, police began investigating the site of one of the carbon monoxide deaths, which occurred last year, on suspicion that Paloma could be charged with professional negligence resulting in death.

Police re-created the accident and measured the carbon monoxide emitted.

Hiroyuki Joshima, 18, died of carbon monoxide poisoning on Nov. 28 in his Tokyo apartment and his 25-year-old brother had to be hospitalized for about six weeks.

Police found the water heater unplugged and a meter that indicated gas had been leaking into the apartment for more than two hours.

The government revealed on July 14 that between 1985 and 2005, there were 17 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning from Paloma water heaters in which 15 people died. Paloma Tuesday upped the poisonings to 27 and deaths to 20.

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