Carbon monoxide is both colorless and odorless, making it one of the most common and dangerous culprits for unintentional poisoning. That’s why carbon monoxide detectors are a critical piece of equipment for every home. Slap a few of these to your walls and you can rest assured you won’t be inadvertently sucking in the gas that’s responsible for 400 American deaths every year.
Well… rest assured, unless you’ve purchased one of several brands of carbon monoxide detectors available on one of those fly-by-night e-commerce sites that nobody has ever heard of, like Amazon and eBay.
That’s right, two of the largest sellers of everything were the subject of a recent investigation by the consumer protection group Which?, looking into the effectiveness of the top-selling detectors. And the results were… not good.
According to the Guardian, UK-based Which? tested several different detectors, including one that was labeled by Amazon as a best-seller. All of the items tested failed to reliably detect carbon monoxide, with the best-seller, manufactured under the brand Topolek, failing in 80 percent of instances.
After the report, the two websites removed the alarms that failed tests, as well as more than 50 “lookalike” alarms, many of which were made in China. In a follow up story, Gizmodo says what the offending “alarms” all seemed to have in common was that they were really cheap – selling under $20, and some even under $10. The site says a good carbon monoxide detector often runs from $20 to $50 – not that we’d know. For our sake, hopefully there’s a well-meaning consumer advocacy group out there that’s testing the $50 ones too.