In 2015, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning resulted in more than 50 recorded deaths and 200 hospitalisations in England and Wales, according to official records.
Carbon monoxide is invisible and odourless, making it undetectable without a carbon monoxide tester while giving it the undesirable moniker the “silent killer”.
There are four warning signs that can signify high levels of carbon monoxide in your home:
- gas hob burns yellow or orange, instead of a clear blue;
- dark stains form around the fuel-burning appliance;
- boiler light blows out frequently;
- increase in condensation on window of the room in which the appliance is installed.
Since 2015, private landlords of tenanted property have been required to install alarms for their tenants in any room that is used as ‘living accommodation’ in which there is a fuel burning boiler, fire or stove that burns gas, LPG, oil or wood. Tenants should check that a carbon monoxide detector is installed in their home, and find out the length of its battery life, which can vary between types.
The sensitivity of older models (7-10 years or older) is likely to have diminished, and should be replaced.
If you are a home-owner considering the installation of a wood burning stove fitted in your home, make sure it is checked and signed off by an official HETA inspector or building regulator who can give you advice and ensure a carbon monoxide detector is fitted.
Purchase your detector from a known high-street retailer that only stocks alarms from well-known companies. Consumer watchdog Which? found a fifth of all models tested were so dangerous that people were advised not to install them in their homes. All of the models retailed for under £10.
Online retailers, eBay and Amazon, have recently removed dozens of carbon monoxide alarms from their websites after the devices were found to fail safety tests. Consumer watchdog Which? said some of the alarms seemed to be identical to ones that had failed tests back in 2016.
Three of the unbranded devices, all made in China, repeatedly failed to omit any sound when carbon monoxide was present making them highly dangerous for consumers. It was advised that anyone owning one of these alarms should replace it immediately for their own safety, and consumers are advised contact the company from which it was bought to request a refund. Most of the devices are unbranded with no model number and come from China.
Alex Neill, from Which?, called the selling of unsafe alarms by major online retailers ‘extremely concerning’. He said: “When household names such as Amazon and eBay are selling products that could put consumers at risk, it is clear more must be done by businesses and the government to proactively identify potentially dangerous products and stop them from entering people’s homes.”
Amazon and eBay say they have strict policies about safe products, counterfeit items and ensuring they have tough guidelines, but it seems that more stringent tests need to be carried out in the UK’s current product testing system to ensure safety.
Which? said that the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) needs to take an ‘active role’ in identifying products on sale that might pose a safety risk to the public.
eBay said worked closely with Trading Standards to ensure the safety and lawfulness of products listed. A spokesperson said that the items identified by Which? didn’t comply with UK regulations and had been removed, while they were working to ensure customers were aware of the issue.
Amazon also commented: “All sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who don’t will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. The products in question are no longer available.”
Purchase your new property safely, with a house survey completed by a qualified Independent Chartered Surveyor.