When L. Sagarika, a 29-year-old resident of Kengeri in Bangalore, fainted in the bathroom recently, her neighbours who rushed her to a nearby hospital had no clue of what caused it.
“Her cousin told us she had collapsed in the bathroom, which was poorly ventilated. Any delay in medical care would have been fatal,” said Annapoorna Krishnegowda, the doctor who treated her.
Dhanalakshmi Gnanesh, a resident of Railway Parallel Road, said she usually feels giddy and breathless after a bath. “Although our bathroom is adequately ventilated, sometimes it is suffocating,” she said.
Both Ms. Sagarika and Ms. Gnanesh have liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) geysers in their bathrooms. These cases are important as they show how the use of instant gas geysers can be dangerous, especially in poorly ventilated areas and when safety precautions are not followed.
With rising power costs, most families are shifting from electric geysers to instant gas water heaters, which are cost effective.
H.G. Satyamurthy, a gas geyser dealer at Nagarbhavi, said the most important aspect is ventilation. “We don't install if the bathroom is not ventilated properly. It is important to get the geysers installed by technicians. Most people fix it themselves, which is not advisable.”
Shashidhar Buggi, director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, said the partial combustion in gas geyser gives out carbon monoxide (CO), which is toxic. “The colourless and odourless gas is a silent killer. Within minutes of inhaling CO, the victims feel dizzy and breathless.”
C.N. Manjunath, director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology, explained that inhalation of toxic fumes can damage the membrane lining in the lungs. “The damage to the alveolar lining layer can cause leakage of fluids in the lungs and can reduce oxygenation, causing respiratory distress.” There could be multiple complications if the victim is predisposed to cardiac problems, he warned.
H. Paramesh, paediatric pulmonologist and director of Lakeside Hospital, said good cross ventilation is a must. He pointed out that a study, Indoor Air Pollution from Cooking Fuel and its Impact on the Development of Asthma, by a team led by him in 2010, had shown that electricity is better than gas.
Consumer activist Y.G. Muralidharan said that ISI certification of the geyser did not ensure safety. “The companies must display the precautions prominently on the unit.”
Mr. Satyamuthy, the gas dealer, said the safest option would be to install the geyser unit outside the bathroom, with only the hot water outlet inside the bathroom. “It is important to buy branded units as they are fitted with flame-failure and over-heat protection devices. Some also have oxygen depletion sensors.”
In case of any emergency, the victim must be moved immediately to an open area and given medical assistance.