Search for source of carbon monoxide poisoning under way at Duluth hockey arenaThe Duluth Fire Marshal’s office and Water and Gas Department were inspecting Fryberger Arena today trying to find the source of carbon monoxide that sickened several players, coaches and the arena’s Zamboni driver Wednesday night.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
The Duluth Fire Marshal’s office and Water and Gas Department were inspecting Fryberger Arena today trying to find the source of carbon monoxide that sickened several players, coaches and the arena’s Zamboni driver Wednesday night.
About 30 people were ordered out of the arena just after 8 p.m. and several appeared to have been sickened, including at least eight players and others who received oxygen to help treat high levels of carbon monoxide in their blood.
At least one person was taken from the arena to a local hospital for treatment and another person was transported to the hospital from home, according to the Duluth Fire Department. Their conditions were not immediately available.
It’s not yet clear what caused the carbon monoxide levels to increase to dangerous levels. The colorless, odorless gas usually is produced during combustion of fuels, such as the propane engine that runs the ice resurfacing vehicle or the arena’s gas furnace or gas water heater.
Usually that gas is vented out of buildings and harmlessly released outside. For some reason, that didn’t happen Wednesday at the arena in Duluth’s Woodland neighborhood.
Dane Youngbloom, an assistant Duluth fire chief, said that it was a parent who first noticed that several people seemed to be getting sick. That person called a friend in the city Fire Marshal’s office, who dispatched a fire engine to the site.
Each Duluth fire truck carries a carbon monoxide detector, and firefighters found carbon monoxide levels in the arena air as high as 285 parts per million. That’s well above the federal workplace allowable standard of 50 parts per million.
“Our detectors are set to warn us if there is anything above that workplace standard,” Youngbloom said. “You can start seeing headaches at 200 parts per million for people who are exposed for a couple hours. At 300, you can start to see nausea and other problems, depending on how long the exposure is.’’
The fire department also has three devices that can measure carbon monoxide in people’s bloodstreams. At least a couple of people had levels as high as 20 percent, “and that’s enough so you should at least get some oxygen therapy if not go to the hospital,” Youngbloom said. Blood levels of 50 percent carbon monoxide can be fatal.
Minnesota is one of only a few states that require arena air to be tested regularly. But there apparently is no continuously monitoring carbon monoxide detector in the arena, Youngbloom said.
“I play hockey myself and you’d think, with all the history with arena air quality, a monitor would be a requirement,” Youngbloom noted.
Fryberger Arena is owned by the city and is managed and operated by the Duluth Amateur Hockey Association.
Minnesota has had laws on the books since 1973 regarding air quality in indoor ice arenas. Those laws were tightened in 2010 to require arena managers to monitor inside air and keep carbon monoxide levels below 20 parts per million.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “skaters especially may be at risk for CO poisoning because they are engaged in strenuous activity that increases total lung ventilation and oxygen consumption.”
As recently as Feb. 6, 2011, high levels of carbon monoxide sickened more than 60 people at a youth hockey tournament in Gunnison, Colo. Two young girls required treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber and were flown to a Denver hospital. It was later reported that a faulty ventilation system allowed carbon monoxide from a gas-powered Zamboni to build up inside the facility.