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Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not?
Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves
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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 05/29/2007 22:32:46 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not?
Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 05/30/2007 03:21:26 MDT Print View

Roger,
again a great article. Certainly one of the reasons why I still keep coming back to this place. These kind of articles have definitely changed the way I use my stove and the whole cooking system.

Interesting comments also about the Reactor. It's not even released yet and we already know its weak points. I do still have a question about the way the Reactor works, more particularly about something which isn't strictly mentioned in your article. The Reactor is being promoted has having consistent boil times throughout the life of a canister or in colder weather, and this because of an internal pressure regulator which maintains a constant pressure of just 12,5 PSI (if not mistaken other stoves work at a higher pressure: 14,7 ... 17,5 ???). Do you have an idea how this pressure regulator works and how it can influence the results of your tests? How does the high back pressure influences this? Does the high back pressure influence the cold weather performance of this stove.

Another point which isn't mentioned but which could be of interest is the influence of the finned heatexchangers used in the Jetboil, Etapower and reactor? I would suspect dat they could influence the results by quenching the flames.

A question about the Gravity stove: which jet did you use? .45, .40 or .35? You suggest that a smaller jet size could improve performance. The recommended jet size for LP is the .45 but I wonder if it makes any sence to change that one for the .40 or .35 which are normally recommended for liquid fuels?

A last comment which isn't directly related to the CO issue: you mentioned a hose with a swivel connection for the Etapower. I was wondering if it can be retrofitted to a Gravity stove (EF version)?

Edited by Woubeir on 06/01/2007 14:34:24 MDT.

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Very nice article... on 05/30/2007 07:39:21 MDT Print View

Well thought out in your approach and well written. Kudos Roger.

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 05/30/2007 08:58:17 MDT Print View

I am not completely filled in on the CO series, but has anyone considered the long term effects of CO poisoning? I've looked in to it, and I see such things like long term kidney problems, depression, and confusion, documented and added risk to heart desease, and its danger to pregnant women. Could some of these stoves being used by avid outdoorists be pretty dangerous? How long would it take for the CO to get out of the tent after each cooking, because I would think its the time in which the CO is present rather than the stove being ignited that is the main problem.

Edited by hotrhoddudeguy on 05/30/2007 09:03:40 MDT.

Robert Mohid
(mohid) - F
Reactor on 05/30/2007 11:07:37 MDT Print View

Would it be optimistic for me to theorise that MSR was made aware of this issue long ago and that the current delay in the release of this product is due to attempt to address this?

Since I haven't heard of any lawsuit slapped against Roger and bpl by msr, i remain hopeful.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: CO effects on health, long-term on 05/30/2007 11:14:46 MDT Print View

Here's a link for the US EPA Carbon Monoxide fact sheet:

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/co.html

My NIOSH guide lists the target organs as the cardiovascular system, lungs, blood and central nervous system. Symptoms include headache, tachypnea, nausea, dizzyness, confusion, halucinations, cyanosis, weakness, angina and syncope.

I checked several resources, including the EPA IRIS data base, and it's not listed as a carcinogen. It would seem that unless brain or CNS damage has occurred from acute exposure, all symptoms should clear up once the victim is removed from the source and properly treated. It's not persistent in the body.

Interestingly, there's no indoor air standard established in the US.

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 05/30/2007 14:08:31 MDT Print View

The article states (and the table lists) the high power CO concentration for the MSR Reactor as 50 ppm, but both charts of the actual tests seem to indicate that the high power CO is more like 500 ppm. Is this an anomoly or a misprint?


UPDATE: I was clearly misreading the charts. Thanks for the clarification Ryan.

And great article Roger - I am thoroughly impressed!

Edited by jbrinkmanboi on 05/31/2007 23:20:50 MDT.

Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
Re: Re: CO effects on health, long-term on 05/30/2007 14:28:48 MDT Print View

FYI - Roger and Sue are out on their multi-month trek in Europe. We will likely hear from him when he gets back.

Great article, Roger!

Tony Beasley
(tbeasley) - MLife

Locale: Pigeon House Mt from the Castle
re:Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 05/30/2007 17:34:59 MDT Print View

Hi Roger,

Thanks for another excellent article, you have certainly set a very high standard for others to follow. I know it will be months before you can reply but I would like to see an article comparing the thermal efficiencies of all of those stoves. I have read some evidence that higher thermal efficiency stoves can produce higher CO emissions.

Tony

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: MSR Reactor CO Levels on 05/30/2007 20:35:34 MDT Print View

Jason Brinkman wrote: "The article states (and the table lists) the high power CO concentration for the MSR Reactor as 50 ppm, but both charts of the actual tests seem to indicate that the high power CO is more like 500 ppm. Is this an anomoly or a misprint?"

Jason: "ppm, low" represents the concentration of CO when the stove is operated at low power, and "ppm, high" represents the concentration of CO when the stove is operated at high power. So, yes, the tests results in the tables are correct. As for the charts, note that the red lines correspond to the red axes (right hand side); again, they seem to be correct and consistent with what is presented in the tables.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Reactor on 05/30/2007 20:51:24 MDT Print View

Robert Mohid wrote: "Would it be optimistic for me to theorise that MSR was made aware of this issue long ago and that the current delay in the release of this product is due to attempt to address this? Since I haven't heard of any lawsuit slapped against Roger and bpl by msr, i remain hopeful."

Robert, as stated in the article, we (Roger and myself) communicated with MSR from the moment the test results came off our testing line and were confirmed. To their credit, they were concerned, of course, and promised us their analysis after they had the chance to test it. I haven't heard further from them, but I certainly expect to. They've always been very forthright in their communication and delivering on their promises.

Of course, MSR's position is a pretty safe and simple one: don't cook in tents.

In that respect, so long as you're using the Reactor outdoors and aren't sniffing fumes within inches of the stove while it's running at low power, it should serve you well.

It's that VERY SIGNIFICANT FRACTION OF YOU OUT THERE THAT ARE LOOKING TO COOK IN A TENT WITH THIS STOVE (hey, don't deny it, I have your emails and forum posts to prove it haha!!) then I'd be extremely concerned for your safety.

Whether or not MSR will address the CO issue is probably a moot point from the perspective of their legal team because they would never condone cooking in tents. However, they are certainly aware of the fact that their customers do indeed cook in tents, and sometimes, they do so with MSR's XGK and Whisperlites. Hey, I raise my hand, I'm guilty. It's scary, yes, but sometimes, high on a mountain, bad storm, and you need water, you do it. It's one of those risks.

I don't know if Roger had a chance to see the production version of the stove, and I didn't have a chance to review the prototype he received, but I'm trying to compare the intake vent pattern and chimney vent pattern between my production version and the pictures of Roger's prototype version, and I'm not seeing any differences, so my suspicion is that this CO issue is going to be an issue with the production version <<< *** SPECULATIVE SO, ASSESS THE QUALITY OF THIS STATEMENT AT YOUR OWN RISK.

If I had to bet money, my own personal history with MSR indicates that they will indeed improve CO emissions on this stove, so that they will improve its safety for the fraction of their customer base to which they do not desire to sell to (those that cook in tents) but they lack the ability to control end use, so they will mitigate risks in meaningful ways, and when they do, they'll have us repeat the tests and publish the results to prove. MSR does indeed have that sort of integrity as a company. So, be patient.

The real problem is that CO emissions are next-to-meaningless for most mfrs because no one will ever condone cooking in a tent.

Here's my personal advice.

  • I cook in tents when I have to, and seldom when I don't.
  • I do as much research as possible and try to make informed decisions.
  • I don't rely on manufacturer recommendations for anything, whether conservative or liberal.
  • Don't cook in tents if you don't understand any of this or are otherwise hearing things like "huh?", "why?", "what an idiot!", etc. in your head right now.

  • Don't use an MSR Reactor at low power in a tent.

Ryan

Edited by ryan on 05/30/2007 20:55:30 MDT.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Xtra! Xtra! MSR Reactor gets Nuked on 05/30/2007 21:16:27 MDT Print View

Here's hoping that MSR when they receive a critical amount of input (hopefully w/o the critical injuries) will make a version 2.0. After all, many of the outdoor equipment manufacturers love to have endorsements and products-in-use- photos from the higher powered portion of the mountaineering community ("it's been used on Everest" by sexy climber of the moment fill in the blank, yadda, yadda). Asphyxiated high-altitude climbers of note make for extremely poor publicity and rather suppress sales.

But enough fun---MSR is a responsible company and I know they will eventually improve the design. They've had misteps before when introducing a new product which usually will get nailed by the 2nd or 3rd iteration. It's probably also true that much of it's use by the climbing tribe (a notably impatient bunch) will be at full power---melting snow quickly and the like.

Roger has performed a signal service to both manufacturers and the consumer with his multi-part article and tests. kudos!

Edited by kdesign on 05/30/2007 21:19:58 MDT.

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
Thanks, great article! on 05/30/2007 22:11:37 MDT Print View

Wow, now this is the kind of unique research that makes BPL definitely worthwhile!

So can anyone tell me why I should *not* buy the Primus EtaPower?

Okay, more specifically, although I like my SnowPeak GigaPower stove for fair-weather use, if I want a stove for:
-- cold weather
-- windy weather
-- [relatively] safe [from a CO perspective] in-tent cooking
-- canister convenience
...then seems like the EtaPower is the best choice? The weight penalty seems like it might be partially compensated for by fuel efficiency, plus relying on ski gloves (in lieu of pot gripper) and alu foil lid (in lieu of frying pan) seems to make the weight somewhat reasonable.
Also, can the integrated windscreen be left home (relying on either calm conditions, or in-tent cooking), or is it required for the stove to function?

Robert Mohid
(mohid) - F
Re: Re: Reactor on 05/31/2007 11:52:30 MDT Print View

Ryan, I agree with the logic of your reasoning.

However the cold hard fact is not everyone is well informed and those that are sometimes go against their own judgement for whatever reason. (as you have admitted doing yourself)

Considering this stove's appeal to mountaineers and alpinists, where less than ideal conditions are often the norm, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that some people WILL DIE from CO poisoning.

They can spell the same thing out in bold letters in their wavers as much as they want, but I'm sure they know this in their hearts as well.

Maybe there will be no incidents and all will be fine, but maybe not.

Frankly, a company that is willing to bet the lives of others due to a product's greatly increased risks, is collecting a lot of bad karma in my eyes.

just my 2c

James Loy
(jimbluz) - M

Locale: Pacific NW
Cooking in enclosed spaces on 05/31/2007 17:12:30 MDT Print View

Although the couple was cooking in a snow trench and not in a tent, readers thinking about cooking in an enclosed space might want to check out the article "Death On The Wapta" by Geoff Powter in the Canadian outdoor magazine "Explore", June 2007.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Cooking in enclosed spaces on 05/31/2007 17:54:18 MDT Print View

This 3rd article in the series, where the rubber hits the road, was truly a splendid piece of work. Many thanks, Roger. Only downside is that I will probably be ditching my
Primus Micron, purchased for fuel efficiency and excellent pot supports, and humbly returning to Snow Peak with crow feathers around my mouth.

Jonathan Shefftz
(jshefftz1) - MLife

Locale: Western Mass.
CO Effect of Removing EtaPower Windshield? on 06/06/2007 09:10:05 MDT Print View

Checking a Backpacker mag review, the EtaPower windshield is removable, for ~4oz weight savings.
Given that cooking inside a tent is a great windshield, and that CO emissions from the EtaPower are super low, seems like a great combo ... but is it possible that emissions might rise w/o the windshield? I know that anything (well, almost anything) is *posssible* but the article implies that if anything adding a windshield increases emissions, so seems like removing it would be safe?

eric levine
(ericl) - F

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: CO Effect of Removing EtaPower Windshield? on 06/10/2007 23:20:05 MDT Print View

I thought the first article of the series somewhat of a tease, but the second and now the third are truly fine and very informative!

It happens I just started using the Kovea for my winter camping this year, in a BD firstlight, so the second part could not have come at a better time.(Actually, my Kovea is branded Athena masterglow, and comes with a companion screen / infra red heater conversion.

eric levine
(ericl) - F

Locale: Northern Colorado
CO longterm effects on 06/10/2007 23:24:10 MDT Print View

In response to a posted question, some permanent longterm effects of CO.



Long Term Effects of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is a potentially deadly gas that can have devastating effects upon your life – assuming, of course, that it doesn’t kill you.

This gas has no taste, colour or odour, and can be breathed in over a short or long period of time without you even knowing that it is present. Depending on the levels of carbon monoxide that are breathed in to the body, you may suffer short term effects or permanent damage.

Again depending upon the levels of carbon monoxide breathed in, this gas could prove fatal and can cause a gradual death or can kill within minutes.

The reason why carbon monoxide is so harmful is that it displaces the levels of oxygen within the blood, which results in the death of cells and damage to major organs, which are subsequently starved of oxygen. This lack of oxygen in the blood is known as anoxia. This can lead to a range of symptoms and effects, both short term and long term depending on the levels of gas breathed in and the duration over which you are exposed to carbon monoxide.

The long term effects of poisoning by carbon monoxide can be extremely serious. The long term effects of breathing in carbon monoxide can affect:

* memory
* brain function
* behaviour
* cognition.

It can also cause permanent damage to other major organs within the body, such as the heart.

It is thought that the hippocampus, which is the section of the brain that deals with new memories, can be particularly susceptible to long term damage from CO poisoning.

The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning over the long term may be subtle or may be very severe, depending on the extent of poisoning:

Up to forty percent of those poisoned can suffer problems that range from amnesia, headaches and memory loss to personality and behavioural changes, loss of muscle and bladder control and impairment of co-ordination and vision.

Many of these long term effects are not immediate and may present themselves several weeks after exposure.

In many cases, the symptoms may wear off within a certain time period.

However, in some cases the effects are permanent: particularly in the case of organ damage and brain damage.

Some of the long term effects of low level exposure are still unknown, so it can often be difficult to ascertain what sort of effect this hazardous gas may have upon your life.

Although the majority of people that suffer long-term effects from carbon monoxide poisoning do recover in time, there are those that will suffer permanent damage.

http://www.silentshadow.org/long-term-effects-of-carbon-monoxide-poisoning.html

Edited by ericl on 06/10/2007 23:25:19 MDT.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 06/29/2007 11:43:07 MDT Print View

interesting press release:

Seattle, WA, June 29th, 2007 — Stringent Testing Protocol Results in Minor Design Adjustment

SEATTLE, Washington – MSR (Mountain Safety Research), the Seattle-based manufacturer of proven backcountry gear for demanding users, today announced that the MSR Reactor Stove System, previously scheduled for release in spring of 2007 is not ready for release yet. The MSR Reactor stove – which will be the fastest-boiling, most fuel-efficient windproof stove system available – is able to boil one liter of water in less than three minutes. The stove has been highly anticipated due to early press coverage, awards, and enthusiastic reviews from prototype testers.

The MSR Reactor Stove System design features radical, patent-pending technology including a convective and radiant heat burner, and an internal pressure regulator. As Seattle-based production increased and stoves were put through MSR’s stringent testing protocols, the majority of units met demanding test standards; however, a minority fell short of a particular worst-case combustion condition test, and produced higher than desired levels of Carbon Monoxide (CO). Carbon Monoxide is a byproduct of all fuel-burning stoves, and although the elevated levels produced by the Reactor would have posed little appreciable CO risk to those using the stove as directed, MSR nevertheless elected to further hone the Reactor stove design so that it consistently meets the testing standard.
...