The state education department last week requested that all New York schools conduct an inventory of rubberlike floors and recommended testing them for mercury, after three in Long Island shut down this spring upon detecting mercury vapors.
In a letter to superintendents, nonpublic school leaders, and charter school leaders, the state also recommends that schools with that type of polyurethane flooring follow what’s known as “Minnesota guidance” to test the flooring for mercury.
The state has created links for districts and schools to report their inventory. Once data are collected, the education department, with the health department, anticipates providing further guidance.
The education department’s letter notes that floors installed from the 1960s to 1990s are rubberlike and water-resistant, usually one piece, and poured in place. It also says that not every polyurethane floor used mercury as a catalyst.
Health experts say that mercury vapors even at low levels can accumulate in the body and eventually affect brain function, particularly in children.
A version of this article appeared in the June 19, 2019 edition of Education Week as New York State Recommends Schools Test Flooring for Mercury Vapors