WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), called for an investigation into potentially hazardous emissions from flooring that has been widely installed in public spaces across the country since the 1960s. Some synthetic rubberized floors found in schools, hospitals, and community centers were made using a substance that may release mercury vapor into the air as they deteriorate, posing a potential risk to public health.
In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Booker requested the agencies work together to evaluate the risk of mercury exposure from the flooring and communicate the potential hazards to school districts and the general public.
“It is my understanding that synthetic flooring made using phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA) as a catalyst may release mercury vapor into the air as the flooring deteriorates,” Booker wrote. “According to reports, multiple schools in New Jersey have been found to have emissions that exceed this limit, and hundreds have yet to be tested.
“School children, faculty and staff, and the public are at risk from this potential hazard. Our children deserve access to education without risk of toxic exposure, and under no circumstances should the health and safety of our nation’s children be jeopardized while they are at school.”
The full letter is available here.
"Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and a toxic heavy metal,” said Trisha Sheehan, National Field Manager for Moms Clean Air Force and Gloucester County, New Jersey resident. “It is harmful to the developing brain and can interfere with normal brain development, reduce IQ, and cause learning and behavioral problems. Children are especially vulnerable to the health effects of mercury, and pregnant women can pass mercury through their placenta into the brains of their developing babies. New Jersey parents are deeply concerned that our schools and places of learning could be potentially poisoning our children. As a mom to a child who attends a school that has tainted mercury floors, I need answers about how to protect my son each day at school, and how to prevent other children from being exposed.”
"Too many schools in New Jersey have rubberized floors that may contain mercury, potentially exposing school staff and children to this neurotoxin,” said Heather L. Sorge, Campaign Organizer for Healthy Schools Now, New Jersey Work Environment Council. “Testing is needed to rule out the presence of mercury. Due to their softer nature, rubber-like polyurethane floors have been installed in multipurpose rooms, gyms, cafeterias, auditoriums, stages, and indoor and outdoor tracks in New Jersey for decades. School staff and parents should be educated about this hazard and notified on what steps are being taken by the district to address it. The only way to identify mercury in flooring is to test using bulk sampling by an accredited laboratory. If mercury is found, the hazard must be properly mitigated or eliminated. You can not tell by looks, installation date, or Safety Data Sheet (SDS) whether or not the floor is hazardous. These floors were not exclusive to schools, for example, they've also been installed in nursing homes and community centers. We call on ATSDR to issue a national alert to warn the general public about this health hazard. These affected floors need to be identified, tested, and dealt with in a timely fashion to protect public health."