LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A patient dies every four days in fires involving home oxygen in the US, new data has revealed. The analysis found the likely annual death toll is higher than previous estimates by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
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.
The risk of death from home oxygen fires is far greater in the US compared with the UK where measures have been taken to address the issue since 2006. 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 US is 20 times greater.
Richard Radford, Managing Director, BPR Medical, said, “We’ve always suspected the true scale of the risk from home oxygen fires in the US 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 neighbors, family members, and the emergency services.
“Guidance on reducing the related problem of surgical oxygen fires was produced by US 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 US.”
*Ahrens, Marty “Home Structure Fires” NFPA(2017).