The New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey Work Environment Council and Healthy Schools Now Coalition this fall released a report, Health and Safety Guide: Mercury Hazard in Schools from Rubber-Like Polyurethane Floors.

Written by New Jersey Work Environment Council (NJWEC) industrial hygiene consultants, the document is designed to alert school officials and maintenance staff to a potential health risk and recommends actions to reduce or eliminate mercury exposure. The WEC is an alliance of labor, community, and environmental organizations.

“Rubber-like polyurethane floors using 1,000 to 2,000 parts per million of phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA) catalyst have been installed in school multipurpose rooms, gyms, cafeterias, auditoriums, stages and indoor and outdoor tracks since the 1960s,” states the report.

“PMA breaks down and releases odorless, colorless mercury vapor at room temperatures. The floors and items that have been in contact with them emit mercury vapor indefinitely. Exposures are worse if floors are damaged or deteriorated, in hot rooms with poor ventilation, no outdoor air being pulled in, or no air conditioning.”

Best practices to limit mercury exposure involve ventilation and maintenance.

“If floor removal is not going to take place in the near future, measures to limit mercury exposure should be implemented,” advises the report. “At a minimum, these include cool temperatures, good ventilation and ongoing air sampling.”

These measures should also include floor maintenance and “good housekeeping” including wet wiping, mopping, and microfiber mopping, according to the report.

Further information is available in a fact sheet posted on the New Jersey Work Environment Council website here.

Dan Fatton, NJWEC executive director, can be reached at [email protected].