Aging multifunction toilet seats with heating elements have been identified as the cause of three house fires in the Tokyo area over the past six years, according to published reports. In the most recent incident, which occurred in April, the toilet seat was about 18 years old and the family had observed a leak and other abnormalities up to six months before the fire but did not take corrective action.
In the two other cases the toilet seats were about 10 years old, the reports said. In each case, the wiring of the heated seats had deteriorated with age.
"These were pretty isolated incidents," said Newbold Warden, marketing communication manager, TOTO KIKI U.S.A. Five such incidents have been reported in the past 20 years, he said.
"About 36 million to 40 million units were sold in that time period and there were five that were said to cause house fires," Warden said.
There is a huge market for multifunction heated toilet seats in Japan, he said. "About 36% of all households in Japan have one. The media in Japan are suggesting that people who have a heated toilet seat that is more than seven years old should have it inspected. Seven years is the average life span of the product."
This type of toilet seat is also available in the United States, but it is not nearly so popular as in Japan, he said.
Several manufacturers offer the toilet seats and all meet health, safety and quality standards, he said.
Bemis does not manufacture a heated toilet seat, said Boyd Miller, group product manager/plumbing products, Bemis Manufacturing Co.
The toilet seat with built-in bidet that Bemis introduced at the 1999 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show does not have a heated seat, Miller said.
None of the fires reported in Japan that were traced to the heated toilet seats caused substantial property damage, serious injury or loss of life, TOTO's Warden said.