Chat with Rachel Nichols
Nichols recently investigated the safety of ice rinks. Pollution of the rinks has caused some outbreaks of illness related to the ice resurfacing equipment. Check out her story and watch E:60 on Tuesdays 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Nichols joined ESPN in February 2004 as a New York-based reporter for ESPN's news-gathering operation, particularly "SportsCenter," ESPNEWS and E:60. Nichols received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
Send your questions now and join Nichols Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET!.
Nichols Archive: Columns
Rachel Nichols (2:00 PM)
Hi everyone, welcome to the E60: Danger in the Air chat. Just wanted to start by thanking everybody for the great response to the piece. We really appreciate you watching and getting involved.
Andrew Goldstein Los Angeles, CA
When will this air again? I really want to see it. My son and I are in ice rinks 2-5 times per week. recently I have been coughing a bit, but nothing too serious. No blood or anything, but I'd like to know what I need to look for and if I should be worried.
Rachel Nichols (2:04 PM)
I believe it re-aired again this morning, but you can also catch it online. The link is a little higher up on this chat page, where it says "Check out her story."
Very interesting story, Rachel. Did you do any tests near or in the skate sharpening areas of these rinks to test the air quality? Most rinks do not have proper ventillation in and around these areas, allowing the dust to reach the athletes. It would be interesting to test the air around these areas as well for this as well as mold.
Rachel Nichols (2:06 PM)
We tested directly on the ice, since that's where the most people are, and where they are exerting themselves. Bad air quality gets to be an even bigger problem if you are exercising, because your lungs are working a lot harder and processing more oxygen. So if the air isn't great when kids are trying to zip around the ice and play hockey, speed skate or figure skate, it's even more of a problem.
Grant (laurel, maryland)
Good story, so what are we supposed to do...quit hockey? I would rather die playing hockey than live a long life without playing....If USA hockey isn't going to control it...then I guess it goes down as a risk...like crossing the street.
Rachel Nichols (2:10 PM)
Definitely don't quit hockey! Our hope with this story was to bring a public health problem to light, so changes can be made and everyone has a safe place to play. If you want to take action, a good first step is to write a letter or email to your governor or local representative in the state legislature. Tell them about the problem and feel free to link to our piece online. Right now three states have laws to keep air quality in rinks safe. Yours can too.
Scott- Grand Rapids, MI
Nice story. I recently completed an Environmental Health graduate degree at the University of Michigan. My research project was on this very subject. I sampled a number of rinks in the West Michigan area, checking for elevated CO levels. I found the reaction of the rink owner in Tampa to be typical of most rink operators. They do not want to know if there is a public health threat in their buildings. Well done!
Rachel Nichols (2:12 PM)
It's a shame when rink owners don't want to address this - particularly because those owners that have addressed it tell us it's a relatively easy fix. While replacing a resurfacer can be expensive, getting your current equipment properly tuned is not - and several of the parents we talked to also said they wished the owners of their rinks would acknowledge any problems and ask for help. Parents are often willing to make donations or hold fundraisers if they think they can help keep their kids safe.
Care to name the three states that have the air quality laws at rinks? Might as well give them an "attaboy".
Rachel Nichols (2:14 PM)
Absolutely! Minnesota, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have laws right now, as does Alleghany County in Pennsylvania. Among the rinks we tested, those in states/counties with laws had levels of dangerous emissions that were 10 times lower than in states that don't test. So it seems like the laws are working...the emissions are way down, and everyone's safer.
Dave (Tampa, FL)
Are many rinks using electric zambonis? Does this solve the problem entirely? Are they much more expensive?
Rachel Nichols (2:16 PM)
Electric zambonis are definitely the priciest option right now. But they're also the safest. In the rinks we tested with electric machines, we found very low levels of particles and no carbon monoxide or nitrous dioxide. The Vancouver Olympics will be all electric - no propane or gas resurfacers.
chaz (sa tx)
great reporting in the E:60 shows. Any hints as to what topics we have to look forward to?
Rachel Nichols (2:17 PM)
Thanks much for watching the show. For hockey fans out there, I can tell you that I have a piece on Alex Ovechkin that will be airing next Tuesday at 7pm. Talk about a guy who operates at 1000 percent, all the time...you'll get a great look at him on and off the ice.
Harry (Marquette, MI)
Is there any conclusive research to link asthma to high air particle counts or is that just speculation?
Rachel Nichols (2:19 PM)
Several studies have been done on this. We interviewed the head of an exercise physiology lab in Pennsylvania who has been working on this for quite some time, and his team has found the rate of asthma in kids who regularly skate to be 4-5 times higher than in the general population. UCLA also just released some very striking numbers, linking high particle counts in emissions to heart disease.
Concerned in Endicott, New York
Rachel, Thanks for bringing this to light. I have two boys who were raised playing Hockey at the Chenango Ice Rink, previously know as the Polar Cap. I very rarely ever left that rink with out having flu like symptoms that lasted for days. People would say it was in my head, but not only did the Ice area have problems but the Locker rooms also. Those ordor's are of a different nature.
Rachel Nichols (2:23 PM)
The day I was in that rink, the carbon monoxide level was particularly high. I spent a little more than an hour in there, and the rest of the day, my throat and voice were a bit scratchy. People who go to rinks with high levels of CO day after day can see all kinds of symptoms - headaches, coughing, throwing up. If you go into a rink that you think is making you sick, it's definitely worth asking some questions.
Brandon Hummelstown, Pa
I am extremely glad you did the story on the air quality in rinks. 6 years ago, my team and I were victims of this kind of negligence and were put in the hospital because of our symptoms. The rink basically denied their poor management and we brought a lawsuit against them. The rink promised to put in CO monitors and fix and replace their Zambonis. They still have not to this day followed up on what they said they would do. Hopefully they see your story and more people open up about this issue.
Rachel Nichols (2:25 PM)
Right now one of the biggest problems is that many rink owners are not breaking laws by having poor air quality - because there aren't laws in their states. It's definitely worth getting in touch with your governor's office or state legislature, send them some info about this issue, and ask them to act. A lot of government officials don't seem aware this is an issue, but when they learn about it, they are moved to act.
Bill (Tampa, FL)
Rachel. Thank you for bringing this issue out in the open! My son and I have played and still do play at TBSA here in Tampa, and I can tell you that the rink owner could care less about your report. His latest comments about you and E:60 are sexist and ignorant. Aside from pulling out of the league and trying to hurt him financially, what can we do to force this idiot to clean up the rink? USA Hockey has no power to do anything. We've tried to get them involved. Help!
Rachel Nichols (2:28 PM)
Mike Fasano is the State Senator whose district encompasses the Tampa Bay Skating Academy. We showed him the results of our investigation, and he pledged to take some action. He says he has begun writing some legislation and wants to see it passed. If you live there, it would probably make a big difference if you and those on your team let him and the other Florida legislators know that you want this to pass, and that you'll be looking out for it.
Tom Boecher Kalamazoo, Michigan
In the rinks you surveyed, did any of them have established air handling systems which were installed to address the concerns for poor indoor air quality?
Rachel Nichols (2:29 PM)
Some rinks have great systems to ventilate the air, and those rinks definitely have fewer problems, no matter what the condition of the ice resurfacer. Still, the best way to fix kids choking on emissions is to reduce the bad emissions, so that's what we wanted to take the closest look at.
Your story about the ice rinks was very interesting. I was a swimmer in HS and had to quit because when we swam indoors in the winter, the chlorine in the pool would turn into gas and irritated my lungs and I would struggle to breathe. An asthma attack is one of the scariest things to have.
Rachel Nichols (2:32 PM)
We spoke to one kid in Binghamton, NY, who has asthma and sometimes skates at a rink with high carbon monoxide. He usually only skates well for a period...after that, he says he really can't move around and breathe as much in the last 2/3 of the game. When he skates elsewhere, he's fine - he's one of the leading goalscorers on his team.
Dave Eilert Cary NC
Rachel incredible piece! I want to approach local rink management here in NC regarding the concerns raised in your piece. Is there somewhere I can get this online?
Rachel Nichols (2:36 PM)
Here is the link to the piece online: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4068133&categoryid=3060647 Definitely circulate it to other members of your hockey teams, to your local legislators or to rink owners. Once people hear the stories of those who have dealt with this, they usually want to do something to make sure it doesn't happen in their rinks.
Rachel Nichols (2:38 PM)
Okay...we're outta time. Thanks so much for all the questions - very sorry we didn't have time to get to everyone. Have a great week, and check out E60 next Tuesday.