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People 'at risk' from gas heaters
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09:02, December 10, 2008

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Thousands of people here are at risk of being poisoned by toxic fumes from aging water heaters, the Shanghai Home Appliances Industry Association said yesterday.

Although the central government has stipulated a general service life of eight years for natural gas heaters and six years for coal-fired heaters, an estimated 700,000 to 1 million Shanghai families are currently using appliances that are past their sell-by date, it said.

Eleven people have died over the past 10 days from gas poisoning, with a third of the cases involving water heaters, an official with the city's medical emergency center said yesterday.

Since the onset of the cold snap, the center has been receiving between one and two calls a day from people reporting gas poisoning incidents, he said.

In response, the Shanghai consumer rights commission has warned people to ensure their water heaters are working properly, and to replace them if they are out of date.

"Aging water heaters pose huge risks, as they can give out toxic fumes, and in the worst cases, gas can leak from perished pipes," an official surnamed Jin said.

"It is extremely important that people have their heaters either repaired or replaced," he said.

Despite the advice, not everyone is sure what to do for the best.

Local man Xiao Liu said: "When I bought my heater, the instructions didn't say anything about its lifespan, so I don't know when I should repair or replace it.

"It's also a hassle to check the gas pipelines," he said.

People like Xiao are being advised to call the Shanghai home appliances repair hotline on 52285151.

Since the start of last month, it has taken almost 2,000 calls, 10 percent of them about water heaters.

Tang Yichun, an official with the Shanghai Gas Co, said: "Winter is the peak season for gas poisoning accidents and fatalities.

"We usually advise families to have their water heaters installed in the bathroom, as far away as possible from the main living areas.

"Keeping a window open at night is also a good way to make sure gases do not build up," he said.

In a bid to encourage more people to upgrade their heaters, several retailers in the city, including Sakura and Linnei, are offering customers a 150-yuan trade-in for their old appliances against the cost of a new one.

Han Jianhua, secretary-general of the home appliances industry association said: "More channels should be established to ensure people know how to operate their appliances safely.

"All new water heaters should come with information about their lifespan."

Source: China Daily

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