New Jersey releases new guidelines for testing for mercury vapors in schools

The New Jersey Department of Health released new guidelines this week for testing for dangerous mercury vapors in the state’s schools.

News 12 Staff

Feb 28, 2020, 1:03 AM

Updated 1,543 days ago

Share:

The New Jersey Department of Health released new guidelines this week for testing for dangerous mercury vapors in the state’s schools.
Mercury vapors can’t be seen or smelled. Vapor exposure at any level can be dangerous, potentially causing nervous system and kidney damage. Schools throughout the state could potentially be exposing students to mercury vapors via the schools’ floors.
“On lead in water, schools had to do testing and submit it,” says New Jersey Work Environment Council executive director Debra Coyle McFadden. “We would like to see the same thing done with these floors.”
Phenylmercuric acetate (PMA) is used to treat rubber-like polyurethane floors, commonly found in school gyms. Sometimes wooden floors are built over them. PMA breaks down over time and releases mercury vapors.
The state Health Department is now recommending that schools have floors tested.
“Much more needs to be done. We don’t know how widespread this issue is,” McFadden says.
North Plainfield Middle School's gym has been closed for most of the school year due to mercury vapor concerns.
But in its latest update, the Environmental Safety Management Corporation said, “Airborne mercury levels within the gym were low, averaging approximately 0.2 to 0.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air, substantially lower than the New Jersey Department of Health guideline for mercury in gymnasiums of 0.8.” California's standard is .06.
“That's much higher than California. So, we want to see the most protective level be adopted by the state to make sure that children and the school staff are safe as well,” McFadden says.
Some floors containing PMA were installed in buildings as recently as 2006.
North Plainfield will be holding a mercury flooring town hall meeting at the end of March.


More from News 12
2:10
Prosecution resumes presenting its case in Sen. Menendez’s bribery trial, focusing on Egyptian halal beef deal

Prosecution resumes presenting its case in Sen. Menendez’s bribery trial, focusing on Egyptian halal beef deal

1:51
Mostly sunny skies today in New Jersey ahead of major midweek warmup

Mostly sunny skies today in New Jersey ahead of major midweek warmup

1:59
Route 71 bridge in Monmouth County remains closed as Memorial Day weekend approaches

Route 71 bridge in Monmouth County remains closed as Memorial Day weekend approaches

Scottie Scheffler's Louisville court date postponed after arrest during PGA Championship

Scottie Scheffler's Louisville court date postponed after arrest during PGA Championship

1:19
Red Lobster seeks bankruptcy protection days after closing dozens of restaurants

Red Lobster seeks bankruptcy protection days after closing dozens of restaurants

0:32
Prosecutors: Man charged with attempted kidnapping in Garfield; victim saved by good Samaritan

Prosecutors: Man charged with attempted kidnapping in Garfield; victim saved by good Samaritan

3:37
Sources: State police search Massapequa Park home of alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer

Sources: State police search Massapequa Park home of alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer

0:16
Police: Driver killed in Jefferson Township car crash on Route 15

Police: Driver killed in Jefferson Township car crash on Route 15

0:23
Dead dolphin washes ashore in Long Branch

Dead dolphin washes ashore in Long Branch

1:41
New Jersey joins Click it or Ticket seat belt campaign. Here's what you should know.

New Jersey joins Click it or Ticket seat belt campaign. Here's what you should know.

1:56
Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with traditional Chinese dragon dance

Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with traditional Chinese dragon dance

0:38
Police: Manchester Township driver ejected from motorized bike following crash into SUV

Police: Manchester Township driver ejected from motorized bike following crash into SUV

2:31
Made In New Jersey: Buy or make your own candles at Brighter Days in Marlboro

Made In New Jersey: Buy or make your own candles at Brighter Days in Marlboro

2:11
Turn to Tara: FEMA initiative aims to improve safety of seniors during natural disasters

Turn to Tara: FEMA initiative aims to improve safety of seniors during natural disasters

0:27
Pacers set NBA playoff shooting mark, top Knicks 130-109 in Game 7 to make Eastern Conference finals

Pacers set NBA playoff shooting mark, top Knicks 130-109 in Game 7 to make Eastern Conference finals

Your New Jersey Graduation Photos

Your New Jersey Graduation Photos

2:41
Lantern ceremony in Montclair honors Asian community who faced violence and injustice

Lantern ceremony in Montclair honors Asian community who faced violence and injustice

1:53
Tour de Elizabeth takes cyclists through New Jersey's fourth-largest city

Tour de Elizabeth takes cyclists through New Jersey's fourth-largest city

0:30
Coast Guard boards anchored shipping vessel in Manasquan; no violations

Coast Guard boards anchored shipping vessel in Manasquan; no violations

0:23
Police: Haddonfield man faces charges for arson, stalking and vandalism

Police: Haddonfield man faces charges for arson, stalking and vandalism