Q COSTA RICA / It’s been four years since the tragedy claimed the lives of five people, from the explosion of a propane gas cylinder in a soda (restaurant). And four years later the country still does not have regulations governing the handling and sale of the gas cylinders.

Since then, there have been demands to guarantee greater security in the market. But the wait continues.

Last year, in 2016, the Cuerpo de Bomberos (fire department) attended to more than 4,100 emergencies involving some type of gas leak, leaving seventeen people injured.

And the leaks continue. In the first 11 days of this year, the Bomberos have already attended 86 emergencies.

The problem is not in the 20lb tanks used for BBQ’s, but the larger tall cylinders with the clip-on valve (pictured here) referred to as the “Central American type”, considered unsafe in the rest of the world.

In the middle of last year, the Ministry of Environment (MINAE) said it had the regulations that would control the marketplace ready, but, it is not yet in place.

What do we need? Another tragedy? One of bigger proportions?

The situation is disturbing because a majority of the kitchens in homes in Costa Rica use gas stoves, buying their propane gas in local supermarkets (pulperias), in containers that have seen better days. This is not the fault of the pulperias, but of the bottlers and distributors of the gas cylinders and their quasi monopoly on the industry.

See Cooking Dangerously

In what was seen as a major step, back in the middle of 2013, the MINAE ordered bottlers of to change the valves as a condition of renewing their operating permits. These are valves referred to as the “Central American type”, considered unsafe in the rest of the world, yet they continue in use in Costa Rica.

In addition to the valve replacement, the gas companies were required to dispose of cylinders older than 10 years. Anyone who has purchased (exchanged an empty for a full) a gas cylinder lately will know that has not been the case either.