Exhaust from Ice Resurfacing Machines Putting Skaters at Risk

Still want to drive that Zamboni?

Image courtesy of redjar via Flickr.com

An investigative report, dramatically titled “Danger in the Air,” by the ESPN news program E:60 suggests that exhaust from ice resurfacing machines is putting skaters around the country at serious risk. The report faults improper ventilation or unmaintained resurfacing machines, which often run on propane or natural gas, for the hazards to skaters.

Read more, and check out the video, after the jump!

The piece begins by documenting a case study in Tampa, Florida where players and coaches began feeling sick on the ice. One actually coughed up blood later the night after he’d been skating, while others were treated by doctors and diagnosed with nitrogen dioxide poisoning.

The investigation took measurements at 28 rinks across the country that use either propane or natural gas resurfacers showing that one third had unsafe levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide or ultrafine particles. Included in the list of violators was the Tampa rink profiled at the beginning of the piece. This led to an obligatory, and entertaining, on-screen conflict between the rink’s owner and ESPN‘s reporter, wherein the owner asserted that the monitoring equipment itself must be broken (but, of course), adding that his own monitoring of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide showed no elevated levels.

Complaints were also logged by owners of a rink in Chicago after the piece aired. The owners noted that none of their carbon monoxide detectors had ever gone off. According to ESPN, both the Tampa and Chicago rink owners are ignoring the quantity of ultrafine toxic nitrogen dioxide particles, which can lead to long term problems like asthma. An asthma expert in the piece claims that hockey players have 4-5 times the rate of asthma of the general population (no citation of that data).

According to the report, just three states currently have laws regulating air quality within ice rinks, but this number will likely increase as awareness of health risks proliferates. The most simple solution for owners is to open their wallets and purchase electrical resurfacers, which come at a premium above the $80k for gas-powered alternatives. For those who want to get really green, I recommend looking into what happened to the fuel cell machine developed by ePower synergies.