Lives '˜put at risk' by faulty carbon monoxide detectors

A fifth of carbon monoxide detectors fail rigorous testing, putting householders at serious risk, the consumer group Which? has warned.

Faulty alarms could be putting people's lives at risk. Picture: Flickr

The Which? investigation put the detectors through rigorous lab testing based on the EU safety standard and found that three out of the 16 devices tested were so bad that, between them, they failed to go off 26 times in 72 carbon monoxide tests.

Those suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning – usually caused by a leak attributed to a fault with a gas boiler, fire or gas appliance – can become seriously ill or, in the worst case scenario, die.

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The three defective carbon monoxide detectors uncovered by Which? were made by ATZ Saviour, Binwo and Mudder. The watchdog is now urging that people should not buy the alarms – and should replace them if they already have them at home.

Richard Headland, editor of Which? magazine, said: “It’s shocking to uncover the sheer volume of carbon monoxide detectors out there that simply don’t work.

“Consumers need to be aware that there are dodgy detectors on the market and should only buy products bearing the BSI Kitemark. We urge all other retailers stocking the products that failed our tests to remove them from sale.”

Following the investigation, Amazon and eBay have removed all three defective alarms from sale and seven other identical looking alarms. The brands are not generally in high street stores.

The Which? test showed that detectors costing around the £20 mark were more likely to work. The three that failed in the Which? test, and the additional seven that caused concern, all cost around £10.

In stark contrast, all 13 alarms tested from well-known brands passed every one of the gas tests and all carry the BSI Kitemark.

Last year, a man died and two others were taken seriously ill after suffering suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in the Borders. The 59-year-old and his two companions, a woman aged 60 and a 31-year-old man, were believed to be staying in holiday cottages or chalets near Peebles.

Also a year ago, the parents of two children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning on holiday in Corfu welcomed a report criticising holiday operator Thomas Cook’s treatment of the family following the deaths. Bobby and Christi Shepherd, aged six and seven, died at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel when they were overcome by fumes from a faulty boiler during a family holiday in October 2006.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include lightheadedness, confusion, headache, vertigo and flu-like effects, while larger exposures can lead to significant toxicity of the central nervous system and heart, and death.

It can also have severe effects on an unborn child if a pregnant woman is exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Which? has alerted Trading Standards and the Council of Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring about its findings.