Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Indoor Air Quality and Ice Arenas

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All recreational facilities including ice arenas should use good ventilation practices especially when children are present. It is critical that indoor air quality is protected particularly when using fuel-burning equipment such as ice resurfacers indoors. Over the past five years, new EPA standards took effect for emissions from ice resurfacers. New machines that meet the most stringent EPA standards reduce hydrocarbon emissions by about 71 percent, nitrous oxide emissions by about 80 percent, and carbon monoxide emissions by about 57 percent.

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What Causes Indoor Air Problems in Ice Arenas?

Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the building. High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants. In enclosed ice arenas, a primary source of indoor air concerns is the release of combustion pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM) into the indoor air from the exhaust of fuel-fired ice resurfacers. Combustion pollutants are produced whenever any fuel such as gasoline, propane or diesel is burned.

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How Does Carbon Monoxide Exposure Affect Your Health?

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that carbon monoxide poisoning could be the cause. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. At high levels, CO can cause lost of consciousness or death. Fetuses, children, elderly people and people with heart disease can be especially susceptible.

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How Does Nitrogen Dioxide Exposure Affect Your Health?

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a toxic gas. NO2 is a highly reactive oxidant and corrosive.

NO2 acts mainly as an irritant affecting the eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract. It may also cause shortness of breath. Low level exposure may cause increased bronchial reactivity in some asthmatics, decreased lung function in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and increased risk of respiratory infections, especially in young children. Continued exposure to high NO2 levels can contribute to the development of acute or chronic bronchitis. Extremely high dose exposures can cause pulmonary edema.

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How Do Particles Affect Your Health?

Particulate matter (PM) is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. Particle pollution is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles. The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Once inhaled, particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.

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Action Steps for Ice Arena Employees and Customers

Learn and become aware of the potential indoor air quality risks associated with indoor arenas.

Pay attention to the warning signs of combustion pollutant (e.g., CO, NO2, and PM) poisoning. If you start to see signs of adverse health effects that you suspect are the result of pollutant exposures, limit or stop activity immediately, inform arena management and consult a medical professional.

To help protect against health effects from combustion pollutant exposure, especially for children with asthma or other respiratory illnesses, be sure to:

Work with your child’s doctor to come up with a plan to control or reduce potential exposure to combustion pollutants especially NO2 and PM at the ice rink as well as inside your home.

If you experience symptoms that you think could be from carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • GET FRESH AIR IMMEDIATELY and leave the building.
  • GO TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM and be prepared to tell the physician where you were, what you were doing, and that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. If carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred, it may be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure.

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Actions Steps for Ice Arena Owners and Managers

Due to the unique use and purpose of ice arenas, these facilities should take specific steps to protect indoor air quality:

  • Educate workers on their role in protecting occupants including children and indoor air quality.
  • Establish procedures for responding to indoor air complaints and emergencies.
  • Exhaust of contaminants and supply of fresh outdoor air are necessary to maintain good air quality in ice arenas.
    • Provide continuous ventilation whenever the rink is occupied.
  • Provide adequate mechanical ventilation to exhaust contaminated air from combustion sources to the outdoors (and away from occupants), and to provide fresh outdoor air to occupied areas. At a minimum use ventilation requirements for sports arenas as described in the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers' (ASHRAE) Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, Standard 62.1-2007 or most recent edition, including the use of additional dilution ventilation and /or source control when using combustion equipment.
    • The International Ice Hockey Federation, in their technical guidelines for an ice rink, recommends equipping the facility with two ventilation units, one for the rink area and one for public areas.
  • Ensure that the fresh air intake is not located near the exhaust from loading areas and outside vehicles, and that the intake is not blocked.
  • Consider replacing older equipment that does not meet current EPA emissions standards with newer compliant equipment, if possible. If not, consider upgrade of current equipment to use most efficient burning fuel type available and pollution control devices.
  • Warm up resurfacing equipment in a well-ventilated room or a room equipped with a local exhaust.
  • Use ice edgers only when the ventilation system can adequately exhaust the emissions. Keep arena gates open during resurfacing to allow for better air circulation.
  • At a minimum, establish a system of monitoring air quality
    • (e.g. taking concentration measurements in the arena and on the ice) especially for major combustion pollutants during and shortly after use of any fuel-fired equipment.
  • Have all combustion equipment such as resurfacers, edgers, forklifts, water pumps and auxiliary generators regularly maintained by a qualified technician.

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Additional Resources

EPA provides additional information on indoor air quality, see:

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