Legislation Sets Mercury Vapor Exposure Limit for Students and School Employees
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.6145/A.7986) prohibiting the installation or covering of mercury-containing flooring in public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools.
"No parent should have to fear their child will be exposed to mercury vapors at school," Governor Cuomo said. "With this measure, New York is joining a small group of states that have taken this aggressive action to protect our children's health and safety."
Rubber-like gymnasium floors commonly installed in schools from the 1960's through the 1990's often contained mercury and have begun to deteriorate. Some of the old floors are now emitting mercury vapors, even in instances where new wooden floors have been installed over the old mercury-containing flooring.
Senator Todd Kaminsky, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "All students deserve to learn in a safe environment, free of harmful, poisonous chemicals. Thanks to Governor Cuomo for signing this historic measure. The enactment of my legislation to tackle mercury will protect our children's safety, while giving parents peace of mind. Safeguarding our students in and out of the classroom must continue to be a priority — the leaders of tomorrow deserve no less."
Assembly Member Judy Griffin said, "Mercury-containing flooring can emit an odorless and colorless vapor that can be detrimental to a child's development. Following a bout of high levels of mercury vapor being discovered in many Long Island school district gymnasiums, I am proud to say that students, parents, and faculty can rest assured that their health will no longer be at risk from exposure to this harmful vapor. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation into law so that our schools will continue to be a safe place for students that to learn, thrive and achieve."
Exposure to mercury vapor is harmful, and children are more susceptible. Exposure can result in memory loss, tremors, respiratory failure and death. In late April 2019, Miller Place High School in Suffolk County discovered high levels of mercury vapors during renovations of its gymnasium, forcing the school to close the gym.
The legislation specifically amends the environmental conservation law, setting a time-weighted average mercury vapor exposure limit for employees or students of 750 ng/m3. The law takes effect immediately and applies to installations after January 1, 2021.