Originally Posted by mello mike
If catalytic heaters were as unsafe as Jammer makes them sound, they wouldn't be on the market and this in a legal climate where lawyers circle like hawks over any sign of liability.
They're usually used in sheds, garages or outdoors. Some people use them in SOB trailers that are very different to Airstreams because Airstreams are notoriously airtight. (I just wish they were as watertight!)
The bottom line is that all combustion, catalytic or otherwise, releases some
There are many toxic gasses, and CO can't really be described as "toxic". The way it works is that you inhale the CO, and the haemoglobin in your blood cells binds to it as readily as to oxygen. It binds just like oxygen, but it's a little harder to let go. As time passes, less and less of your haemoglobin is available to carry oxygen as it gets increasingly blocked by the CO.
The individual won't smell or taste anything. They will eventually gain a flushed appearance. People who die of CO poisoning are not blue as described in the movies and TV shows - they're bright pink and very flushed. They will have a feeling of well-being and complacency. They will slip into unconsciousness and death without knowing it.
Catalytic heaters give off almost entirely radiant heat. This means they do not heat the air, they heat the objects before them that the infra-red rays hit and are absorbed by. For this reason, it is a lot less noticeable to crack a window at each end of the trailer by 1/4" to allow circulation of the air, venting of the CO and replenishment of oxygen.
Failure to do so will result in your untimely death unless the enclosure is at least a little leaky - it's just that in most situations it takes longer than you might normally use the heater, or the enclosure is more leaky than you believe it to be.
The poster above who says they'd rather other's safety not depend on knowledge of correct operation seems to have it right. Either buy a catalytic heater with clear warnings printed on it, or write them on it, or don't use one.
During 1999-2004, CO poisoning was listed as a contributing cause of death on 16,447 death certificates in the United States. Of these, 16,400 (99.7%) deaths occurred among U.S. residents inside the United States, and 2,631 (16%) were classified as both unintentional and non--fire-related deaths. For the period 1999--2004, an average of 439 persons died annually from unintentional, non--fire-related CO poisoning (range: 400 in 1999 to 473 in 2003). The annual average age-adjusted death rate in the U.S. was 1.5 deaths per million persons. Death rates were highest for adults aged >65 years and for men. The average daily number of CO-related deaths was greatest during the months of January (2.07 deaths) and December (1.97 deaths) and lowest during the months of July (0.67 deaths) and August (0.67 deaths). For the period 1999--2004, a total of 35 states had sufficient numbers of CO-related deaths to calculate reliable mortality rates. The state with the highest reliable CO mortality rate was Nebraska, and the state with the lowest reliable rate was California. Here's a handy chart
So basically, if you're a white male over 65 years, watch out! CO's coming after you like a cheap horror movie.
(When I was in college, I had to work with a cadaver of an individual who died of CO poisoning - though from a water heater with an obstructed flue. The rosy coloration of the skin was unlike any cadaver I have seen before or since.)