Canadians love their hockey. With that in mind, a reasonably sized community will have an ice rink. Global Maritimes states in a news article that “there are 10 times as many rinks in Canada as there are in the United States.” That means more ice resurfacers and ice edgers can be found in Canada than the USA.

An ice resurfacer is a machine that is used to clean and smooth the ice. An ice edger is a machine that is used at the edge of the ice rink where the ice resurfacer cannot reach. Both machineries are either powered by fuel or electricity. The exhaust produced by the fueled powered machines emits, in the air, carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulates, regardless if they are powered by gasoline, propane or diesel. These pollutants linger in the air and with inadequate ventilation; outdoor air is not brought inside to dilute the emissions from the machine(s) nor is indoor air being pushed out. So the only way for these toxic pollutants to migrate is to be inhaled.

CO is “odorless, colorless and poisonous gas” (Indoor Air Quality…). Early symptoms include shortness of breath, mild nausea and mild headaches. Long term exposures could cause loss of consciousness and even death. NO2 is a reddish-brown toxic gas that gives off a sharp odor. Early symptoms could “cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat as well as shortness of breath” (Toxic Fumes…). See table 1 below. Particulate is a “complex mixture of…acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles” (Indoor Air Quality…) and affects the heart and lungs.


Table 1: Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Poisoning at Various Exposure Levels

GasLow ModerateLong Term
Carbon Monoxide (CO)- Shortness of breath- Mild nausea- Mild headaches

- Dizziness

- Itchy or watery eyes
- Severe headaches- Dizziness- Mental confusion

- Nausea

- Fainting

- Dulled senses
- unconsciousness- Death
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)- Bronchial problems (e.g. asthma)- Lung problems- Respiratory infections

- Irritations to eyes, nose and throat

- Shortness of breath
- Acute or chronic bronchitis- Pulmonary edema

Table is based on “Indoor Air Quality and Ice Arenas”

So with every breath a person in an ice arena takes, they are slowly poisoning themselves without even knowing it. Arenas usually have very little ventilation; therefore, toxic fumes that are emitted in the arena will linger.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides guidelines to recreational facilities for ventilation practices and air quality standards. For instance, the EPA recommends facility operators to use electric powered ice resurfacers and edgers as it “reduces hydrocarbon emissions by about 71 percent, nitrous oxide emissions by about 80 percent, and carbon monoxide emissions by about 57 percent” (Indoor Air Quality…). Based on the Today’s Show, see video, most arenas do not use electric powered models as it costs “twice as much as the older fuel models” and is not a mandatory requirement from the USA federal government. Gas detectors, such as carbon monoxide, are also not legal requirements for ice rinks in the USA as mentioned in the Today’s Show video. Only three states, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, regulate their indoor air quality (Is the ice rink…).

What to do if you see warning signs or symptoms as a result of high pollutants:

  • Limit or cease exposure immediately

  • Leave the building & get fresh air immediately

  • Seek medical attention

  • Speak to arena management

  • Work with your doctor to come up with a plan to control or reduce potential exposure

As a customer of the ice arena, find out from arena management if:

  • The ice resurfacers and edgers are fuel-fired or electric?

  • The ventilation system is adequate?

  • Fresh air is supplied to occupied area of the arena?

  • Are there gas detectors installed for CO, NO2 and particulates?

What should the ice arena employees and managers do?

  • Procedures:

    • Educate yourself and your staff

    • Create procedures to respond to complaints and emergencies

    • Develop an evacuation plan

  • Ventilation:

    • Get the ventilation system regularly maintenance

    • Ensure fresh air intake is not located near vehicle exhaust or loading areas and is not blocked

    • Open gates to allow better air circulation during and after resurfacing

    • Follow EPA guidelines & ASHRAE standards to regulate IAQ

    • Install automatic ventilation when certain levels of gases are reached

  • Machinery:

    • Replace or upgrade older equipments that do not meet EPA emissions standards

    • Reduce edging time

    • Decrease resurfacing frequency

    • Installing catalytic converter to all fuel machineries

    • Regular servicing on machines used at the arena

    • Warm up ice resurfacers and edgers in a well-ventilated room or outside

  • Detectors:

    • Install a gas detection system to monitor toxic gases at breathing level

    • Monitor air quality for CO, NO2 and particulate gases during and shortly after use of machines

    • Install an alarm notification

    • Have notification alarms connected to local fire department or emergency medical services

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Written by: Teresa Kouch, Marketing



Barthelmes, John, and Degnan, J. “Toxic Fumes at Indoor Ice Rinks.” Informational Bulletin 2011-02. Feb 2011. Web. 09 May 2011.

“Cape Breton doctor examines link between hockey rink cleaners and cancer.” Global Maritimes, 6 May 2011. Web. 09 May 2011

Coffman, Keith. “Authorities probe ice rink fumes that sicken 61 people.” Reuters, 07 Feb 2011. Web. 09 May 2011.

Dillard, Mechele. “Carbon monoxide poisoning potential threat in ice rinks.” HULIQ, 10 Feb 2011. Web. 10 May 2011.

Holt, L., Moss, M., and Pelham, T. “Exposure to carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide in enclosed ice arenas.” Occup Environ Med 2002; 59:224-233.

“Indoor Air Quality and Ice Arenas.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 11 May 2011.

“Is the ice rink making your child sick?” MSN BC. 2011. Web. 16 Feb 2011.