RETIRED nurse Margaret Rae, 80, put a heated wheat bag in her bed to help ease her hip pain but it turned out to be a fatal remedy.
An inquest has heard Ms Rae died from smoke inhalation after the wheat in the bag ignited and started a fire which burned her Caringbah unit in September, 2011.
Despite her death there is still no regulation for microwavable wheat bags which were responsible for 39 fires across NSW, an inquest at the State Coroner’s Court has heard.
Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon said consideration should be given to an Australian Standard being developed for the heated packs.
Wheat bags, also known as microwavable personal warmers, are fabric bags filled with wheat for heat therapy.
Magistrate MacMahon also stressed the need for a safety campaign warning people of the fire risks associated with using the bags, as he handed down his findings on Tuesday: ‘‘That Fire and Rescue NSW in conjunction with NSW Fair Trading develop a co-ordinated public awareness campaign highlighting the fire risks associated with the use of microwavable personal warmers.’’
Counsel assisting the Coroner Bronwyn Lorenc said wheat bags could be sold without guidelines and manufacturer’s warnings because the industry was unregulated.
‘‘These products vary from handmade wheat packs sold at craft markets to therapeutic heat packs manufactured especially for medical heat treatment,’’ Ms Lorenc said.
‘‘Other wheat bags not marketed for specific medical heat therapy have no applicable standard.
‘‘For homemade bags in particular, there may be no measure taken to reduce a fire risk.’’
The inquest heard two other fires at Padstow and Darling Point had been caused by wheat bags combusting since Ms Rae’s death.
There was a British Standard in relation to ‘‘microwavable personal warmers’’ and there were several cases in other states and countries which indicated the fire risk associated with the bags.
‘‘Once overheated and due to the gradual degeneration of the wheat inside the bag, a rapid smouldering process can occur which can cause the bag to ignite,’’ Ms Lorenc said.
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