co2 meters

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co2 meters

Postby Cave Corgi » Apr 8, 2015 11:44 pm

Is a portable co2 meter a good way to make sure the air in a cave is good? If so, what are some good models of co2 meters for caving? Thanks.
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Re: co2 meters

Postby caver.adam » Apr 9, 2015 2:00 pm

Where and why are you concerned about this? It will help the community give you a better answer.

A CO2 meter will only give you limited information. Some areas, especially mines or volcanic caves, can contain much more dangerous chemicals such as CO, H2S, CH4, etc. CO2 kills you by asphyxiation, but it makes you feel like you are having a hard time breathing or like you are suffocating and you may be able to leave the area once you feel these effects. The other chemicals can put you to sleep or they can kill you even after you leave the area.

That being said, if someone else can answer then great. Otherwise you might try experienced miners or mine explorers.http://www.undergroundminers.com/safety.html
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Re: co2 meters

Postby Cave Corgi » Apr 9, 2015 5:46 pm

Adam, to answer your question, I just like to be as prepared as possible when I enter a cave. Also, out here in Utah, we have a somewhat limited selection of caves, some of which can only be entered through old mines, which I've heard don't have very good airflow.
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Re: co2 meters

Postby caver.adam » Apr 10, 2015 8:24 am

Awesome. I'd definitely talk to miners. Unfortunately we don't have many here in KY so I can't put you in contact.

Short answer - A CO2 meter is NOT enough to detect bad air. Thanks for caving safely!
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Re: co2 meters

Postby gindling » Apr 10, 2015 10:08 am

And one of the more prominent caves in northern Utah is Big Brush Creek Cave which has some areas of bad air at the bottom because of decomposing washed in debris from the previous spring flood. Would a lighter trick be enough for knowing when to turn around in this situation?
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Re: co2 meters

Postby Caverdale » Apr 11, 2015 3:01 pm

Cave Corgi wrote:Is a portable co2 meter a good way to make sure the air in a cave is good? If so, what are some good models of co2 meters for caving? Thanks.


You are over obsessing about CO2 in Utah caves and mines. I have been in a great many abandoned mines in Utah but have never encountered CO2, but I never carried a CO2 meter. In these mines you have to worry about collapsing ceilings and rotten timbers. I've been in every mine that has a known cave (except 1) that can be visited but have never encountered CO2. (Some mines with known caves are 800+ feet down a shaft) As just mentioned, the Dead Air Passage in Big Brush Creek Cave is known for CO2. It is horrible, horrible. But three of us made it to the bottom and back out. That was in 1976, nearly 40 years ago. No one has ever followed us.

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co2 meters

Postby Ernie Coffman » Apr 11, 2015 5:31 pm

I was going to recommend that Cave Corgi get in contact with you, Dale, but...your first sentence in your answer spells it out completely! Guess we could recommend that Corgi carry a Bic lighter, like a lot of us do; thus, if the flame goes out, move on out of that area. And, of course, I see where you're both in the same grotto, so...will Corgi take some sensible thoughts and reason things out?
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Re: co2 meters

Postby Caverdale » Apr 11, 2015 7:36 pm

Ernie Coffman wrote:I was going to recommend that Cave Corgi get in contact with you, Dale, but...your first sentence in your answer spells it out completely! Guess we could recommend that Corgi carry a Bic lighter, like a lot of us do; thus, if the flame goes out, move on out of that area. And, of course, I see where you're both in the same grotto, so...will Corgi take some sensible thoughts and reason things out?


When we first started in Dead Air all of us had carbide lights. We could tell when the bad air started because the carbide flame would burn straight up vertically, sooting the reflector. We fixed that problem by going to all electric lights and off we went! The end had to be found.
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co2 meters

Postby Ernie Coffman » Apr 11, 2015 10:17 pm

Well, Dale, I was going to mention carbide lights, but so many cavers don't even know of that great light. <grin> As for it being used in a cave with CO2, it was always funny to see the carbide flame go up and down...or simply just go out, but when you would move up it would come back on; and, if you went into the area where the gas was, the carbide flame would go out, so...amusing...it was! Now they've got such super-duper lights, its almost scary to see what those lamps will do. Whewee!
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Re: co2 meters

Postby Cave Corgi » Apr 13, 2015 8:38 am

Caverdale wrote:
You are over obsessing about CO2 in Utah caves and mines. I have been in a great many abandoned mines in Utah but have never encountered CO2, but I never carried a CO2 meter.

Dale Green FE, LB


Thank you, this really puts my mind at ease.
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Re: co2 meters

Postby BrianFrank » Apr 13, 2015 4:00 pm

If you can't breathe, go back the way you came, quickly :big grin:
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All TAG cavers join http://www.SCCI.org. A small price for a GREAT resource.
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co2 meters

Postby Ernie Coffman » Apr 13, 2015 6:47 pm

That's a good comment, Brian. Sometimes, though, you're caught in a real crawly place with lots of nubbins holding you in, like in Dragon's Breath, out of Angels Camp, California. Down several levels and we almost lost a guy who kept going down, down, and he was the only one to go the far distance. Made it out, successfully--barely--but ended up in the hospital in San Andreas. Believe he even quit caving after that, but not certain.

Way back when, I remember when we read or heard about CO2 being in a cave down in Texas. That's all! Thus, we never feared of CO2 until one weekend when we were doing some other caves in the Mother Lode area of California, and just happened to hit the right season--there really is a season for this gas--and we had caved there numerous times, but this time, it hit us big time, with our gang all being down on the bottom of this 120' cave, so we all had to back out, like you wrote, and get ascending up that rope. Sweaty climb that I can recall to this day.

Now, like I wrote before, cavers in that area carry a BIC lighter and test it every so often if they feel that there's something amiss. And, it was always fun to watch a carbide lamp go on and off when going into a cave with CO2, so that was usually a pretty good indicator of a problem and to move on out of the cave. Not worth being a hero--or maybe a dead one.
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Re: co2 meters

Postby MarkLL » Oct 15, 2015 11:49 am

FWIW, an acquaintance who did a lot of bat work in abandoned mines in NM once told me that the only gas meter you really need on a day-to-day basis is an O2 meter. It measures what you need to breathe, after all, and what the changes in carbide lamp flames reflect. An O2 meter cannot, of course, detect toxic gases like CO, SO2 and NO2. Apparently those are rarely encountered in old workings and caves, although he did see high CO2 levels fairly frequently. If your pO2 starts dropping (whether caused by a CO2 buildup, or otherwise), you have a problem.

BTW, this guy ran the sampling tube down his leg to just above his bootlaces. That, he said, gave him an early warning of CO2 problems. (No advantage in a crawl, I suppose.)

I have no personal experience with gas meters, just repeating what I was told.
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Re: co2 meters

Postby alfred1 » Sep 12, 2016 4:35 pm

I am interested in this matter too, since I probably never encountered any cave considered dangerous due to toxic gases but also wouldn't like to, or at least know about it and head back soon enough.

While I understand that safety has no price, I'm wondering how good (or at least better than nose-guessing or lighter-testing) are those multi-gas testers without LCD display?
AFAIK they need a few minutes in open air upon powering up to calibrate on good air then you set a dial to a low or medium setting and they will start beeping if something isn't good and will also beep stronger if levels rise. I don't know if they're mostly used to find gas leaks but given that they beep from 10-40% LEL (lower explosive limit) to CO2, SO2, H2S, methane, solvents, smoke etc. and are cheap enough to consider getting a personal one, I wanted to hear your opinion.
Here's one of them pictured below.

Thank you

Image
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Re: co2 meters

Postby captnemo » Sep 13, 2016 10:49 am

We've had quite a few discussions on CO2 levels on this forum before but new tech may make this worth revisiting. If you can find a meter that is inexpensive and can reliably detect elevated CO2 levels then I'd say use it, but the lighter test has proved reliable for many cavers for a long time so I wouldn't discount it.
Here's one of the previous threads(there's been many) http://forums.caves.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=10918&p=131808&hilit=breath#p131808
Here's a great paper on the subject Naked Flame Test for, and Human Tolerance to, Foul Air in Caves
The best advice is, “If in doubt, get out”, in an orderly manner.

and here's a paper to emphasize that co2 is a health risk that should not be underestimated.
http://www.blm.gov/style/medialib/blm/wy/information/NEPA/cfodocs/howell.Par.2800.File.dat/25apxC.pdf
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