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Carbon Monoxide Reaches ‘Potential Hazard’ Levels In 2 Tractor Pulls

October 19, 1990

ATLANTA (AP) _ Tractor pulls can produce not only noise and skidmarks but potentially hazardous levels of carbon monoxide, federal health officials say.

Tractor pulls typically feature a dozen or so truck rigs outfitted with super-powerful engines competing in pulling 50-ton sleds across a dirt floor.

Carbon monoxide levels during two tractor pulls in a Winnipeg, Manitoba, hockey arena ″represented a potential health hazard to both participants and observers,″ the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported Thursday.

Carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas in all exhaust and smoke, can cause headache, dizziness, cardiac problems and even death.

The problems may not occur at other tractor pulls. U.S. health officials aren’t sure whether the problem was peculiar to Winnipeg Arena, where attempts to decrease carbon monoxide levels didn’t work.

″I wish I knew,″ said Dr. Ruth Etzel, a researcher with the Center for Environmental Health at the Atlanta-based CDC. ″We would certainly like to see some data so we would know if this is a problem.

’We were quite surprised at the levels of carbon monoxide that can build up in these things.″

The findings from the 1988 events at Winnipeg Arena prompted the cancellation of a February 1989 tractor pull in the building, constructed in the early 1950s.

Health officials didn’t report any incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning during either Winnipeg event, although some members of the ambulance crew did report severe headaches, Etzel said.

But the officials urged arena officials not to allow future tractor pulls, and the arena management agreed, said Rod Thiessen, director of operations for Winnipeg Arena. ″They’ve never come back and made them safe enough,″ he said.

At the start of a February 1988 pull at Winnipeg, health inspectors measured airborne carbon monoxide levels averaging 62 parts per million - nearly twice the Winnipeg Health Department’s recommended indoor one-hour guideline of 33 parts per million. By the event’s end, the level had increased to 262 parts per million.

For a November 1988 event there, roof louvers were opened, the time of the event was extended and one fewer pull was run. Still, according to the CDC, carbon monoxide levels then went from 78 parts per million to 436.

Adverse health effects have been reported in people breathing a constant 15 parts per million, the CDC said.

Mike Weber, a spokesman for TNT, one of the largest tractor-pull promoters, said his group has ″never had any problems″ like those at the Winnipeg arena.

″We present motor sports events in all the major arenas across the country, and we take every precaution. We do constantly monitor our emitted fumes ... it’s worked very well for us,″ said Weber, director of public relations for the United States Hot Rod Association, sanctioning body for TNT events. TNT was not involved in the Winnipeg pulls, he said.

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