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Arena air monitors proposed

Published (3/11/2010)
By Lauren Radomski
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In the three years before Linda Davis was diagnosed with chronic carbon monoxide poisoning, she experienced daily memory loss, fatigue and muscle weakness. The former professional figure skater and longtime coach had to sleep for hours during the day to muster the energy to make it to the ice arena at night. By the time of her 2008 diagnosis, Davis had realized what was making her sick: exhaust from the equipment used to maintain the ice.

“I like to talk to people and I say, ‘Would you ever run a car inside a gymnasium, close the doors and ask kids to run around it?’” Davis asked the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee March 10.

The approved HF3512, which would require all Minnesota ice arenas to contain an electronic air monitoring device that would activate exhaust fans when levels of carbon monoxide or nitrogen dioxide reached certain thresholds. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), would lower the acceptable thresholds of these gasses and allow the state to administer grants to help fund the devices. It was sent to the House Finance Committee without recommendation.

Minnesota is home to about 250 ice arenas, all of which would likely need to be upgraded to accommodate the monitors, said Linda Bruemmer, director of the Department of Health’s Environmental Health Division. Current rules require ice arena staff to test air quality once a week on the day maintenance equipment is used most.

Department officials said they support Hansen’s idea, but do not know of existing technology that would link a monitoring device with an arena’s ventilation system.

“The state has not seen one in operation, so in my technical expertise … this would be an experiment,” said Dale Dorschner, manager of the Indoor Environments and Radiation Section.

Several committee members said they were alarmed by the issue. Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) echoed similar sentiments, but said he wants to make sure state standards are realistic so that the problem is addressed.

A companion, SF3175, sponsored by Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

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