Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ice Arena Air Quality

For starters, this is my first blog and a requirement for a class so I'm not sure if it will turn out correctly, but I will give it a try.

I have worked at an Ice Arena in De Pere, WI since I was fourteen years old, and spent most of my childhood there because my sister was a figure skater (still is in fact). My mom likes to tell a story about the first time I saw the Zamboni go around the ice; I jumped out of my seat, pressed my face against the glass, and was in a trance for the entire ten minutes until the ice was clean and the Zamboni exited. When I went back to my seat, I immediately started asking some questions about the Zamboni, and once I had some answers, I looked my mom square in the face and said, "Mommy, I'm going to be a Zamboni driver some day." Now, fifteen years later, I find myself doing exactly that. I started driving when I was seventeen and now drive the Zamboni at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, MI as a part-time job while going to school for Mechanical Engineering.

A few days ago, I heard some guys talking at work about a story they saw on E:60 (ESPN's equivalent of 60 Minutes), about the air quality in Ice Arenas and how many people are getting sick. It struck me as something very funny, yet very real, since my Ice Arena in De Pere had a complaint filled against them with the Wisconsin health board because some skaters went back to their hotel room after a game and started vomiting blood. Needless to say, the local health official was there a few days later with lots of testing equipment. He came back a few days in a row, taking tests at different times of the day, trying to gather data not only right after the Zamboni was on the ice, but also in the early morning, before there was any movement on the ice to stir up the gases. At the end of multiple days of testing, we were told that we had high levels of both CO2 and NO2 and needed to install exhaust fans before people could take the ice again. Lucky for us, we already had four exhaust fans installed right behind the players benches, about 7 feet above the ice surface, they just didn't work. The next day the electrician came by, and before the sun went down, we were back to normal operations.

I find it hard to believe that these gases really are the only cause to these sicknesses. Maybe a mixture of the increased gas, fatigue, and other variables are the true cause, but just the gas...? My only good reason for why I think there has to be more than just the increased gas intake is because I have spent countless hours on the Zamboni, and never once have vomited blood or had other symptoms of this illness. A light head ache here or there was common, but I don't need to be in the Ice Arena to get one of those...the fresh air will sometimes do it.

There are very few times when we are able to do ice maintenance for a long period of time, but when it comes around, we will sit on the Zamboni for 3 or 4 hours, driving around in circles removing built up ice, and even at these times, the fumes from the exhaust have not cause me any type of health problems.

There are a few things that Zamboni, Inc. has done over the years to help minimize this problem. A couple of these include adding catalytic converters to all of their machines and rerouting the exhaust so it no long exits underneath the Zamboni close to the ice surface, but now exits above the Zamboni, like adding a stack on a Semi.

I believe that it has become an unfortunate American-way to point fingers and place blame whenever possible. Take for example the numerous commercials on TV claiming that if you have taken a certain drug during a certain time, or have had this specific mechanical knee replace your worn out one, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The reason why one would take these drugs or have knee replacement surgery is to fix something that is wrong with the body, and if one of these fixes has an unexpected side effect that no one knew about, heaven forbid, someone has to be sued.

Some articles I found compared skating in a rink to skating behind one of those smelling diesel trucks that spits black smoke when they start from rest. If you believe this to be true, you should probably have your child in a bubble because almost everything man made can be linked to some sort of harmful effect.

Where will this madness end? Ever heard of second hand smoke? That is terrible for children yet some parents force their kids to live in that environment, and I am willing to bet some of those same smoking parents are the parents complaining about the air quality in their local Ice Arena where their little Johnny skates.

I am frustrated and fed up with this new idea about parenting; how parents walk around with their chests puffed out thinking that the way they are raising their children is the best way and any other ideas about parenting are just plain wrong. What happened to the times when teachers were allowed to hit kids over the palms with rulers when they were misbehaving? Nowadays, teachers have to worry about the way they even look at a student, in fear of being sued for sexual harassment or worse.

Growing up, if I was ever yelled at in a public facility by staff, I would always feel embarrassed and stop what I was doing wrong immediately. Even tonight at work I had to tell some kids to stop running through the halls yelling and throwing balls at each other. Five minutes later, my radio goes off and those same kids are doing the same thing again, but as soon as they seem me coming, they stop and act completely innocent. When they are allowed to get away with this type of behavior at home, they think its O.K. to get away with it in public as well, and even when the parents witness this behavior in public, they tend to do very little to correct it. Spankings????

I think that is enough for now, since I am way way way off topic. Hopefully this is what my Prof. was looking for.