Earlier this month, 19 players from the women’s ice hockey game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Lindenwood Lions went to St. Louis-area hospitals to be checked for carbon monoxide poisoning. Luckily, all of the players were treated and released. Firemen were deployed to the Lions’ home ice, the Lindenwood Ice Arena in Wentzville, MO., to measure the arena’s indoor air quality where unusually high levels of carbon monoxide were found. All scheduled activities for the twin-pad arena were immediately cancelled as the hunt for the source of the poisonous gas began.

Arenas and Carbon Monoxide Prevention

Unfortunately, whenever you have equipment run by fossil fuels in an indoor setting there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning to your users and staffIt’s a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas, known as the silent killer, a combustion by-product that is very toxic to humans. It can cause a variety of symptoms including lightheadedness, dizziness, coma — even death — as it reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood.
There are three main ways to prevent CO poisoning in an ice arena; proper equipment maintenance, proper ventilation and early detection.

1. Proper Maintenance of Fossil Fuel Burning Equipment

Often the culprit in carbon monoxide incidents is fossil-fuel burning ice resurfacers. These machines may have left the factory meeting high emission standards, but if unless they are properly maintained, they are often the source of carbon monoxide emissions.
The ice resurfacer is usually a suspect, but it’s not always source of harmful carbon monoxide emissions. The United States Ice Rink Association (formerly – Serving The American Rinks) says that any equipment that uses fossil fuels needs to be checked:
Any equipment that burns fossil fuel (gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas) such as infrared bleacher heaters, hot water heaters and boilers, furnaces, dehumidifiers, forklifts, scissor or boom lifts, generators and idling vehicles outside the rink can all contribute to unacceptable levels of Carbon Monoxide and/or Nitrogen Dioxide.
(Minnesota offers matched grants for qualifying arenas who want to install electric resurfacers and edgers in an effort to increase the indoor air quality of arenas in that State.)

2. Proper Ventilation

Proper ventilation is also critical for good IAQ. Arenas need adequate ventilation systems to evacuate any harmful emissions from the facility — and these systems need to be maintained properly too. Keep in mind that ventilation issues may be caused by outside factors, like vehicles left idling outside that are too close to your fresh air intake vents, so measures should be taken to keep those areas off limits to vehicles.
If your arena has a fossil-fuel burning resurfacer, a portable exhaust hose fitting over the resurfacer’s exhaust pipe and venting to the outside should always be used when starting up the ice-resurfacing machine or whenever its allowed to run idly in the resurfacing room for any extended period of time.

3. Early Detection

And finally, early detection is key. If your arena doesn’t have a carbon monoxide detector, it should. The detector will alert your staff  to the presence of this harmful gas. And… get your team trained so they know what they need to do in case of a CO incident.

As for the source of the carbon monoxide incident at the Lindenwood Ice Arena, it was their ice resurfacer. Scott Queen, Lindenwood University’s spokesman, tells me:

The source was identified quickly. It was the ice resurfacer. (Carbon Monoxide) Levels are back to zero. I am not aware of the exact levels, but they were considered high enough to close the building. We did not have sensors, and the building remained closed until we had sensors. The building reopened Monday.

-Scott Queen, Spokesman for Lindenwood University

Resources for IAQ and Carbon Monoxide

There are some excellent resources online where building owners and facility managers can learn more about carbon monoxide poisoning prevention and indoor air quality in ice arenas. Here are a few: