If you or your children are an indoor ice skater or hockey player, you should be aware of the potential danger of indoor ice arenas resurfaced with gas-powered ice resurfacing machines like Zambonis.
Carbon monoxide fumes and micro-particles from Zamboni engine exhaust linger inside enclosed ice rinks, and can hurt those who inhale them. Unlike carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO) is potentially harmful at even small levels. OSHA limits carbon monoxide exposure to 25ppm both for short-term exposure limit (STEL) and time-weighted average (TWA) over an 8-hour workday.
With an ice resurfacing machine only running for a few minutes a day, it would seem like this is a small problem. Yet regular news articles appear across the country describing people in enclosed ice rinks being sent to the hospital with CO poisoning.
- As far back as 2002, the EPA issued an extensive report 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."
- In 2009, ESPN ran a story 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 resurfaces at indoor ice arenas."
- In 2011, 61 people in Gunnison, Colorado were sent to the hospital with CO poisoning.
Long-term exposure can be harmful too. Former Ice Capades dancer Linda Davis was diagnosed with long-term carbon monoxide exposure in her 40s, after decades of ice time. She has lung damage, chronic memory problems, and must use a respirator.
One solution is for ice-rink owners to replace old gas-powered ice-resurfacing machines with newer electric ones. However, this can be a significant capital expense. A better solution would be for ice rink owners to voluntarily test the CO and NO2 levels with their current equipment, and take corrective action if necessary. For example, CO2Meter.com’s Carbon Monoxide CO Handheld Detector can quickly warn ice-rink owners, skaters, or ice-rink employees if CO reaches dangerous levels.
Few states in the US have laws requiring carbon monoxide detectors in ice rinks, and OSHA air quality standards are “suggestions”, not requirements. For people who spend lots of time in an indoor ice arena, knowing the CO levels in the air around them is important for their health and safety.