According to the Huffington Post, on Feb. 7, 2011, “A hospital official says 54 people have been treated for varying degrees of carbon monoxide poisoning that occurred at a youth hockey tournament in the western Colorado town of Gunnison.”
The culprits are malfunctioning air circulation systems and/or poorly maintained ice resurfacing machines.
Many indoor ice arenas, and shopping malls with ice rinks, use ice resurfacing machines to create high-quality ice for skaters to enjoy.
The vast majority of these machines use gas engines. Electric machines are available but still have to work out the high costs and some glitches. Three electric machines broke down during the 2010 Olympics in Canada, and gas-powered machines had to be called in.
The problem with the gas machines is that they produce carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas, which can cause serious injury or death.
The most popular ice resurfacing machines are made by the Zamboni Company. Frank Zamboni invented the original ice resurfacing machine back in 1949. According to the Zamboni “General Safety Practices” issued with each machine, it states very clearly with a “danger symbol” to emphasis the point that:
“Internal combustion engines produce exhaust emissions that contain dangerous gases, including carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). These gases can cause serious injury or death.
“The rink MUST be adequately ventilated during every operation of the Ice Resurfacer. Also the resurfacer must be kept properly maintained and serviced at all times and the engine timing should always be properly set. Each person who operates and maintains the resurfacer should be so instructed.
“Please keep in mind that adequate ventilation, monitoring the facility’s indoor air quality (for CO and NO2 levels) and the condition of the machine is, at all times the complete responsibility of the rink.”
The EPA issued an extensive report in 2002 detailing the need for ice rink owners and managers to be acutely aware of the dangers of “Indoor Air Problems for Ice Arenas,” such as what causes the problems, how CO and NO2 gases and particulate matter (PM) affects your health, and the “Action Steps of Ice Arena Owners and Managers.”
On April 15, 2009, ESPN “E60” ran a news article and video titled “Study finds health hazards at rinks.”
The article stated that “In the past six months, nearly 200 people have been sickened by carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide or ultra fine particles emitted from poorly maintained ice resurfacers at indoor ice arenas.”
Today, only three states — Minnesota, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — have enacted laws regulating air quality at indoor ice rinks.
If you are a parent whose child enjoys sports on ice in an enclosed arena or mall, make it your business to find out how safe your child’s environment really is. At the very least, every indoor ice rink should have sensors that pick up CO and NO2 gases along with particulate matter.
If the arena denies your concerns, then call in the fire marshal of your town and have them do tests as the ice resurfacer machines are working to see if everything is working properly.
Also pay careful attention to your children when they come home from an ice arena. If they are very tired, have headaches, or anything out of the ordinary, take them to the hospital for immediate evaluation. They may have deadly gas poisoning.
Make it your business to ensure your child’s health and safety!
The Huffington Post, ” Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Strikes 54 People At Youth Hockey Tournament”, information from KMGH -TV. February 10, 2011.
Zamboni, “DANGER – Safety Bulletin”, Fall 2006.
EPA, “Indoor Air Quality and Ice Arenas”, September 2002.
ESPN, E60 report, “”Study finds health hazards at rinks” April 15, 2009.