Nine of 28 carbon monoxide poisoning accidents that resulted from defective gas water heaters were caused by improperly altered safety devices coupled with dirty heat exchangers and deterioration of parts, Paloma Industries Ltd. reported Monday.
President Toshihiro Kobayashi presented a report several hundred pages long to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry covering an in-house probe into carbon monoxide poisoning accidents that resulted in 21 deaths from 1985 to 2005.
The document filed by the Nagoya-based company includes measures to prevent similar accidents, such as setting in-house standards to recall defective products.
In the report, the company reiterates that it never instructed that improper alterations to be made.
“There are no instances in which we instructed or approved of” alterations, the report says.
Kobayashi apologized for the accidents in presenting the report, and said at a news conference he has offered his resignation as chairman of the Japan Industrial Association of Gas and Kerosene Appliances.
Hideo Matsui, director general for commerce and distribution policy at METI, told Paloma officials, “The safety of consumers is the priority. I hope you will make all-out efforts to prevent a recurrence” of the accidents.
Meanwhile, relatives of people who died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to faulty water heaters expressed dissatisfaction toward Paloma for not contacting them before submitting the report to METI.
Kenji Yamane, 57, who lost his son, Atsushi, in Tokyo in 1996, said, “About 10 days have passed (since Paloma apologized), but there has been no contact since then.
“I think they should give an explanation to family members before they report to the government,” he said.
The company launched an in-house investigation soon after the issue of defective water heaters hit headlines in mid-July.
Paloma said a total of 21 people in eight prefectures died of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by defects in its gas water heaters, while more than 30 people were injured in gas poisoning accidents. The accidents and fatalities occurred over a 20-year period and it was revealed last week that the firm knew of defects before the first death, in 1985.
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