Three workers doing emergency maintenance at an ice rink in Fernie, B.C., were killed by a suspected ammonia leak. Here are some facts about ammonia in ice rinks:
— A toxic, corrosive gas with a pungent odour. It is slightly lighter than air. It is not normally flammable, but in extremely high concentrations can create an explosive mixture with air.
— A severe irritant to mucous membranes, the eyes, nose and throat. Exposure can cause headaches, coughing and difficulty breathing, while prolonged exposure can cause pulmonary edema, fluid in the lungs that can be fatal.
— It’s commonly used in mechanical refrigeration systems, including those found in ice rinks. It is used as a liquid form in the ice systems, but becomes a gas once it’s released.
— It should not be confused with liquid ammonia found in the home. Household ammonia is diluted with water.
— Long-term exposure weakens a person’s ability to detect ammonia.
— It can cause chemical burns. Ammonia will also corrode many rubbers and plastics.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said routine maintenance was being done based on information released by the mayor.