The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry searched the offices of gas appliance maker Paloma Industries Ltd. and its parent and sales firm, Paloma Co., Thursday in connection with fatal carbon monoxide-poisonings involving the firm’s gas water heaters that occurred over a 20-year period, ministry officials said.
A public relations officer –
at Paloma Co. answers questions from reporters Thursday in Nagoya after the company was searched.
The officials raided Paloma Industries’ head office and main plant in Nagoya and other facilities in Sapporo, Tomakomai, Hokkaido, Yokohama, Nagano, Osaka, Nara and Okinawa. Both head offices are housed in the same building in Nagoya’s Mizuho Ward.
Paloma confirmed the ministry’s search, telling reporters more than 10 ministry officials came to the head offices.
The search is intended to look into Paloma’s documents and facilities in order to thoroughly investigate the poisonings, ministry sources said.
Over a period of more than 20 years from 1985 to 2005, 21 people were killed and 30 others injured in 28 poisoning cases in eight prefectures, Paloma recently admitted. The accidents were mainly caused by improper alterations to safety devices in the water heaters. The alterations caused incomplete combustion, generating carbon monoxide.
In late July, Paloma presented the ministry with the results of its in-house probe into the poisonings. It said in the report that it had failed to properly respond to inadequate alterations but denied there were defects in its water heaters.
On Monday, Paloma filed an additional report that showed most of the accidents involved water heaters made in 1981 and 1982.
Paloma Industries and Paloma announced Thursday they will not pay winter bonuses to the 11 board members at the two companies as a gesture “to assume social responsibility for causing trouble to users and gas utility firms.”
The companies also said they have dismissed some 100 part-timers and nonregular workers at four out of 11 plants to cope with an output cut following revelation of the poisonings.
Last week, the ministry announced that Paloma Industries was the only company whose gas water heaters had been linked to such accidents.
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