We encountered a situation where cell reference formals and conditional formatting would not work on a sheet. It only impaces columns with a space in the Column Name. There were 3 indications of the problem:
Upon analysis, Char(160) was in the column name when it should be Char(32). Replacing the bad, non-breaking spaces with good spaces solved the issue.
It was likely that the sheet was created using import from Excel. The imported product from Excel was an export from another system that used the non-breaking space. There was no way for the user to know until we saw the problems.
The recommendation is that Char(160) should not be allowed in a column name. If encountered, it should be replaced by Char(32). This should be a simple fix.