BPR Medical: US oxygen users at higher risk

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Monday, October 28, 2019

LONDON – American oxygen users are twice as likely to die in a home oxygen fire than in Japan, and 20 times more likely than in England, according to a new study from BPR Medical, a medical gas designer manufacturer. The report identified 311 separate home oxygen fires over a 20-month period, resulting in 164 deaths, 71 serious injuries and 119 minor injuries. HME News spoke to Richard Radford, managing director, about how these fires start and what can stop them.

HME News: Did anything about the study surprise you?

Richard Radford: I think the number of cylinder explosions was a really surprising outcome. One in three cylinders exploding seems like an awfully big number to us and the mobile homes finding, as well. (Twenty-three percent of deaths occurred in mobile homes, yet mobile homes make up only 7.6% of the U.S.’s housing stock). It’s something we don't have a lot of in Europe, so that's a cultural issue.

HME: What are some of the leading causes?

Radford: With smoking, there are two types of fire: one where the nasal cannula is still on their face, and one where they've taken it off to try and reduce the risk. But in 15% of cases, it could be a stove, it could be a candle—birthday candles are a favorite. In Japan, people pray to candles, so when they lean forward, if they're on oxygen, anything like that is possible and it does happen. Open heating elements is another, and again mobile homes seem to be heated quite a lot by secondary heaters or radiators.

HME: Are patients getting enough education?

Radford: I think it’s very clear that there's been a lot of education in the U.S. The question is, does the education work? It may stop an awful lot, but the question ought to be, does it stop enough? What other things could be done? What really needs to happen is the industry needs to look at designing out the problem or providing alarms that would prevent this from happening, something like firebreaks because they automatically work to stop the fire in its tracks. Firebreaks are used in 25 other countries right now, but they’re not a requirement in the U.S. It doesn't stop the fire from starting, but it prevents a small fire from turning into a house fire.