The cheap safety device which could save your family's life

British parents spend hundreds of pounds on safety features to protect their children - yet new research reveals a third of them fail to invest in a cheap device that could save their child's life.

A carbon monoxide alarm could save the lives of your family. Pic:PA/thinkstockphotos.
A carbon monoxide alarm could save the lives of your family. Pic:PA/thinkstockphotos.

On average, UK parents spend £222 on safety items for their children, but they’re almost twice as likely (78%) to buy a car seat as a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, which costs from around £10-£20.

New research by the Carbon Monoxide Be-Alarmed! campaign has revealed a third of parents don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm in their home, and those with children under 12 months are the least likely to have one (42%).

In fact, stair gates, baby monitors, plug covers, cupboard and drawer locks and smoke alarms all came above CO alarms in the list of ‘must-have’ safety items.


Carbon monoxide is known as the ‘silent killer’ because it can affect people before they’re aware there’s a problem. Indeed, more than 50 people a year die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and another 4,000 are treated in hospital.

CO Be-Alarmed! campaign spokesperson Lawrence Slade says: “Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer because you can’t see it, taste it or smell it, so an alarm can be lifesaving.”

Children are more vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, and Slade explains: “Being smaller, the carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream and is carried around the body much quicker.”

Unborn children are also particularly vulnerable to CO poisoning, as they depend on the mother’s air supply and if she inhales CO, they have no choice but to take in the poison, which can cause learning difficulties.

“A CO alarm should be at the top of any parent’s safety checklist,” stresses Slade.


The vast majority (91%) of parents polled said they had a smoke alarm before they had children, compared to just 55% who owned a carbon monoxide alarm.

But why don’t all parents install CO alarms?

“I think it’s lack of awareness more than anything,” says Slade.

“Carbon monoxide does fall under the radar as a threat in the home. It’s easy for parents to see when their child is going to hurt themselves on a sharp corner when crawling around, or playing with a plug socket, but carbon monoxide could be affecting them before they’re even aware something’s wrong.”


Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood, which are used in many household appliances, including boilers, gas fires, cookers and open fires, don’t burn fully.

The gas is colourless and odourless, but when it’s breathed in, it enters the bloodstream, mixes with haemoglobin and stops the blood being able to carry oxygen. This lack of oxygen causes the body’s cells and tissue to fail and die.

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, and nausea and breathlessness, which can sometimes be mistaken for flu or tiredness. Eventually, people suffering from CO poisoning will collapse and lose consciousness.

“Other people in your house, flat or workplace may fall ill with similar symptoms,” says Slade, “or your symptoms may go away when you go on holiday and return when you come back.

“You may find you’re getting headaches more frequently in winter, when the central heating is used more frequently.”

And he warns that even a neighbour’s faulty boiler could lead to CO leaking into the house next door.


The Co Be-Alarmed! campaign is urging people to follow the simple ABC checklist - Do you have an Alarm fitted? Have you tested it and are the Batteries working? Have you had a recent gas Check?

“It’s important to install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home to alert you if there’s a carbon monoxide leak,” says Slade.

“However, an alarm isn’t a substitute for maintaining and regularly servicing household appliances.”

For more information about how to stay safe, visit

Top safety features parents buy for their youngest child

1. Car seats (78%)

2. Stair gate (74%)

3. Baby monitor (68%)

4. Plug covers (56%)

5. Cupboards and drawer locks (51%)

6. Smoke alarm (51%)

7. Carbon monoxide alarm (42%)

8. Bed rails (41%)

9. Room thermometer (36%)

10. Window locks (35%)