Gulf between U.S. and U.K. home oxygen fire safety highlighted at MEDICA 2019 -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

04.11.2019

Association Of British HealthTech Industries

Gulf between U.S. and U.K. home oxygen fire safety highlighted at MEDICA 2019

BPR Medical - an international leader in the design and manufacture of medical gas therapy solutions - will be joining the ABHI UK Pavilion at MEDICA 2019 (18 – 21st November 2019) at Hall 16 / K03-3 to discuss its recent report, ‘The prevalence and impact of home oxygen fires in the U.S’.

The analysis, which is the first of its kind, revealed that home oxygen fires claim a life every four days in the U.S., and found the likely annual death toll is higher than previous estimates by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Data from the report confirmed that the minimum death rate from home oxygen fires in the U.S. fares poorly with other parts of the world, notably Japan and the United Kingdom.

The research by BPR Medical examines media reports of home oxygen fires between December 2017 and August 2019. 311 incidents were recorded, resulting in 164 deaths. Most fatalities were oxygen users, however 11 were third parties, including family members or other residents. A firefighter died in an incident in October 2018 when he was hit by shrapnel from an exploding propane tank. 

Previous data from the NFPA has estimated that up to 70 people are killed each year from home oxygen fires*, however it always emphasized that these are ‘likely underestimates’. This new analysis suggests that the actual figure could be twice as high, given that some incidents may not be reported or published online, and that subsequent deaths from injuries may not be reported.


BPR Medical’s analysis of recent incidents also found that 71 serious injuries were reported by the media. Most (63 / 89%) were sustained by oxygen users, and included either burns or smoke inhalation injuries, or both. Emergency Rooms record around 1,200 injuries annually from home oxygen fires*, suggesting most incidents go unrecorded in media reports, the basis for the new study.

The study reveals that:

·        Most oxygen fires (72%) were either caused, or probably caused, by patients smoking while using oxygen therapy.

·        Exploding cylinders are referenced in 33% of reported incidents, presenting a high risk to the emergency services and the public.

·        In 124 incidents (40%), a whole dwelling was destroyed.

Richard Radford, Managing Director, BPR Medical, said, “We’ve always suspected the true scale of the risk from home oxygen fires in the U.S. was higher than previously estimated. This data not only confirms the extent of fatalities among home oxygen users themselves, but also the impact on other people, including neighbours, family members, and the emergency services.

“Guidance on reducing the related problem of surgical oxygen fires was produced by U.S. regulators in 2018, based on clear evidence of the problem. We hope this study will provide valuable data to support the changes required to address what remains a material public health issue in the U.S.”

The risk of death from home oxygen fires is far greater in the U.S. compared with the United Kingdom.  Regulation and mandatory incident reporting in the U.K., along with a culture of cooperation between stakeholders, a strong risk assessment process and the use of low-cost risk control measures, such as smoke alarms and thermal fuses (also known as firebreaks), results in a markedly safer outcome for home oxygen users and third parties.

A similar study in 2018 found only one death as a result of a home oxygen fire was recorded in England from 2013-17. It concluded that for the same oxygen user population, the risk of death in the U.S. is 20 times greater.

Firebreaks are now used in more than 25 countries around the world. They are a requirement in Europe under medical device legislation and are specifically mandated in the U.K. and Germany. Japan is transitioning to full adoption by February 2021. Since March 2018, the Veterans Health Administration (VA) in the U.S. has mandated the use of thermal fuses in every home oxygen patient installation.

A copy or the report and infographic is available at www.firebreaks.info/unitedstates/

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