An American oxygen user is twice as likely to die in a home oxygen fire than in Japan, and almost twenty times more likely than in England.
That’s according to a new study by BPR Medical titled ‘The prevalence and impact of home oxygen fires in the USA’ which examined media reports of home oxygen fire incidents in the US between December 2017 and August 2019.
According to the report, the death toll of home oxygen fires across the US is likely to be higher than previous estimates reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Over the time period, the study identified 311 separate home oxygen fire incidents, which accounted for 164 deaths, 71 serious injuries and 199 minor injuries – amounting to more than one death every four days.
Exploding cylinders were referenced in a third of all reported home oxygen fires, posing a significant risk to third parties, including the emergency services. 11 of the reported deaths were third party deaths.
Incidents related to oxygen fires in mobile homes was a recurring theme. Of the 311 incidents, 64 (21%) were related to an oxygen fire in a mobile home.
Death was a result in 34 of the 64 incidents involving an oxygen fire in a mobile home, resulting in 37 deaths (23% of the total deaths). Mobile homes only account for 7.6% of the housing stock in the US, so fire in the accommodation are disproportionately represented.
Overall, the data highlights that home oxygen fires represent a much higher risk in the US than the UK, where stakeholders work together to reduce risk and where the fitting of oxygen firebreaks is mandatory.
Conclusions of the study highlighted an annual average fatality rate of 100, although the study is likely to be an underestimate due to factors such as not all oxygen fires being reported and not all reports being unveiled and therefore not included.
Given the reasonings above, it is likely the death rate in the US from home oxygen fires is probably been 100 and 150 people each year which is 1.5 to 2 times higher than previous estimates.
The rate of deaths found by the study represents at least 4% of all home fire deaths in the US, while home oxygen users only represent 0.5% of the US population overall. Therefore, home oxygen users in the US are eight times more likely to die in a home oxygen fire than other US citizens. This can be multiplied by three if that oxygen user lives in a mobile home.
It is hoped that the study will provide valuable data to support the changes required to address what remains a persistent and material public health issue in the US.