Ice Rink Air Quality Factors

Do you know how well your air handling equipment is working? There are no Federal regulations regarding indoor air quality, including the ideal levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Often recreational facility managers don’t know their facility has an air quality problem until an emergency evacuation occurs.

Unlike homes, ice rinks are not required to have carbon monoxide detectors and so it is very important to have an air quality management program in place. Air quality can be effected by a large number of factors.

16 Common Ice Rink Air Quality Problems

While ice rink air quality issues can be caused by many factors, there are some common problems that facility managers can focus on.

  1. Ventilation system deficiencies
  2. Overcrowding
  3. Tobacco smoke
  4. Microbiological contamination
  5. Outside air pollutants
  6. Cleaning chemicals
  7. Ultrafine Particulate Matter (UFP)
  8. Refrigerants, off-gassing from materials and mechanical ice rink chiller equipment
  9. Equipment that burns fossil fuels (gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas), for example ice resurfacing equipment, ice edging equipment, forklifts and scissor or boom lifts
  10. Infrared bleacher heaters
  11. Hot water heaters
  12. Boilers
  13. Furnaces
  14. Generators
  15. Idling buses outside of the facility
  16. The absence of an ongoing independent indoor air quality monitoring program

Most of these common air quality problems can be prevented by having an Air Quality Management Program in place.

Ice Rink Refrigeration

Ice Rink Refrigeration Shouldn’t Be Your Only Focus

Maintaining the proper temperature in your ice rink facility and creating high-quality ice surfaces are vital to your ongoing success. With these two important tasks taking precedence, it can be easy to overlook maintaining your indoor air-quality. Creating an Air Quality Management Program that follows industry best practices can help simplify this task for you. Your program should include these 4 steps:

1. Air Quality Awareness Training

Air quality awareness training should be an important part of an employee’s orientation and workplace training program. It should include education on what can impact air quality, how to recognize the signs that air quality has been compromised, and the symptoms of exposure.

Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide & Ammonia Exposure and Symptoms

Exposure to explosive gases, carbon monoxide, hydrogen-sulphide, nitrogen dioxide and ammonia can cause a variety of symptoms. Below we outline the characteristics and symptoms of exposure to Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Ammonia.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. Common symptoms of exposure include:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Rapid breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The maximum exposure level for Carbon Monoxide is < 30.0 PPM

Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen Dioxide is a dark brown or red-brown gas that has a pungent, acrid odor. Common symptoms of exposure include:

  • Irritation of eyes
  • Irritation of nose
  • Irritation of throat

The maximum exposure level of Nitrogen Dioxide is < 0.5 PPM


Ammonia is commonly used as part of the ice rink’s refrigeration system. Liquid ammonia is a clear fluid that evaporates quickly at room temperature. It can become toxic and flammable at high concentrations. Common symptoms of exposure include:

Low Level (5 PPM)

  • Sharp odor is detectable

Moderate Level (6 – 49 PPM)

  • Irritation to the eyes
  • Irritation to the respiratory tract
  • Possible nausea
  • Possible vomiting

High Level (50 PPM+)

  • Possible ulcerations to the eyes
  • Severe irritation to the respiratory tract

Extremely High Level (300 – 500 PPM)

  • Potentially fatal
  • Can cause fluid build-up in the lungs
  • Severe shortness of breath

2. Testing Air Quality in an Ice Rink Facility

A good air quality management program tests air quality:

  • At least once a week in a consistent manner (i.e. method, location)
  • In areas where people are likely to be exposed, including the ice rink, dressing rooms, lobby and concession stand area and both player and spectator benches
  • Are performed during a time when the equipment and facility is being heavily used
  • Provides a written record of the test measurements for easy evaluation
  • Written records should be maintained in a bound and numbered log book
  • An action plan that can be implemented if toxin levels are too high
  • Have set policies for dealing with any breaches of law that include the completion of a facility incident report

It is recommended that owners of arenas should have air quality testing equipment on hand.

Air Quality Testing Equipment

An Air Quality Management plan requires testing equipment for explosive gases, carbon monoxide and hydrogen-sulphide, nitrogen dioxide and ammonia. There is a variety of testing equipment available and most of them provide +/- percent accuracy of toxic gas concentrations. Some will provide you with an instant digital reading while others record gas concentrations with a data logger for a permanent record of exposure levels. Gas detectors should be regularly calibrated to ensure accurate and reliable readings.

3. Inspection of Ice-Resurfacing and Ice-Edging Equipment

Ice rink managers should ensure that their ice-resurfacing and ice-edging equipment have an annual inspection completed by a qualified technician. Technicians will be able to perform an emissions test and let you know whether there are any issues that need to be addressed.

It is highly recommended that you complete an annual inspection on any equipment that burns fossil fuels such as forklifts, scissor lifts and boom lifts.

We also highly recommend you stay on top of ongoing and annual ice rink refrigeration system maintenance. This will help prevent the occurrence of any refrigerant links, as technicians will be able to spot issues before they become major problems.

4. Protecting Ice Rink Air Quality from Outdoor Contamination

Indoor air quality can be impacted by outdoor air quality. Those idling vehicles waiting to pick up or drop off people from the ice rink facility could be negatively impacting your air quality. To protect against this, fresh air intake areas should become “No Idle Zones”.

Air Quality Testing

Air quality testing can be completed by internal ice rink staff or by third parties. It is important that tests are conducted throughout the facility at different times and locations, as well as the testing of outdoor air quality.

Ice Rink Refrigeration System

Berg Chilling Systems provides a range of high-quality recreational ice rink services. Our experienced team will create a custom designed solution that can include chilling, pumping, ice making and more. Contact Berg Chilling Systems to learn how we can make your system more efficient and cost-effective.