Consumer group warns of explosion danger with cooking gas cylinders

August 20, 2015

A study sponsored by the Costa Rican Consumers Association, a consumer rights’ group, highlights the risk of explosion of most of the cooking gas cylinders currently used in homes here.

Metallurgical engineers performed internal and external tests on 26-pound aluminium gas cylinders bought at various supermarkets to check their flexibility, resistance, thickness, the state of their external components and their reaction to chemical agents such as odors used for leak detection.

The engineers concluded that most of the cylinders’ thickness and deterioration levels were dangerous.

Costa Rican Consumers Association President Erick Ulate said the lack of information to trace cylinders, as well as the increasing deterioration detected by the engineers, represent real risks of explosion. It is impossible to determine when or where these explosions can occur, he said, but most aluminium cylinders still being used here were manufactured in the 1960s.

The group released results of the study, which was carried out by consulting firm Asesorías Industriales Proyma S.A., on Wednesday. Testing was carried out at laboratories of the Technology Institute of Costa Rica under the supervision of the Firefighters’ Corps.

The results are consistent with those of a similar study carried out last year by the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP). The agency found that six out of ten cylinders had some kind of damage and that seven in ten lacked basic information such as fabrication date or the manufacturer’s name.

Last February another ARESEP inspection found that 7 percent of the cylinders it inspected had leaks.

The Costa Rican Consumers Association sent a copy of its study to Environment Minister Édgar Gutiérrez and to the Legislative Assembly. The group included a request to ban aluminium cylinders and to ask gas companies to replace almost half a million of them currently being used across the country with iron or polymer ones.

“The main issue here is that iron cylinders weigh two to three kilograms more, though prices usually are very similar,” Ulate said.

Firefighters attended a total of 5,363 emergencies related to gas leaks in 2014, and 91 percent of them occurred in homes. One of the most recent incidents was an explosion on July 15 that destroyed a restaurant in Alajuela. In 2013 a similar explosion at a house, also in Alajuela, resulted in five people dead.

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