Thu, Jan 29, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Landlords, firms liable for heaters

POOR VENTILATION The Consumers' Foundation said that landlords and construction firms who install gas water-heaters incorrectly were obliged to reinstall them, or else


Reacting to a spate of carbon-monoxide poisoning incidents over the Lunar New Year period, the Consumers' Foundation yesterday said construction companies could be held accountable for any indoor gas water-heaters installed without ventilation equipment.

"If water boilers are installed indoors without proper ventilation equipment in buildings that were constructed after 1994, then according to Article 7 of the Consumer Protection Law (消費者保護法), construction companies are responsible for making the appropriate adjustments," said foundation board member Hsiao Horng-ching (蕭弘清), who is also an assistant professor at National Taiwan University.

The law states that a company which provides a product or service that takes the life or damages the health, body or assets of a consumer or a third party must pay compensation.

Hsiao said that in January 1999, a tenant in Taipei died of carbon-monoxide poisoning while showering because the gas water-heater installed in the bathroom had been fitted without adequate ventilation.

The parents of the tenant sued the landlord for negligence and won the case. The landlord received a three-month prison sentence and was ordered to pay NT$2 million in compensation to the family of the victim, Hsiao said.

"The family of a tenant can win a lawsuit against a landlord for wrongly installing a water-heater, so residents should not be afraid to ask their landlords or construction companies to make adjustments," he said.

Hsiao also said that residents could take precautionary measures to prevent poisoning, such as hiring an electrician to move water-heaters and pipes to the outside of the house or unit, adding ventilation fans in the bathroom or replacing gas water-heaters with electrical heaters.

Fire-safety experts also indicated that older water-heaters might pose a risk.

"Water-heaters that have been in use for more than two years might not function as effectively as before. If the flame is yellowish instead of blue, it is a warning sign to the user because a yellow flame indicates that combustion is incomplete," said Chuang Chi-chung (莊啟忠), chief director of the Taipei Fire Department's Fire Safety Museum.

Chuang said that residents could also purchase carbon-monoxide detectors in large discount stores for around NT$2,000.

"There is a type of detector which can pick up the level of carbon monoxide and the level of gas in the air, and this should be placed outside of the kitchen area or in the main hallway," Chuang said.

"The detector gives out a loud, piercing noise when the amount of carbon monoxide or gas has reached a point that is hazardous to the health," he said.

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