A New Jersey elementary school says it will wait until summer to renovate its gymnasium after mercury was detected in its rubberized floor.
According to The Courier-Post, school officials were alerted last month to the presence of mercury at the Bernice B. Young School in Burlington Township after a floor test was conducted by the district. That test was part of the preliminary work of a $10 million upgrade to district schools, the paper reported.
The school is keeping the gymnasium open, according to Superintendent Mary Ann Bell. She said the environmental tests conducted on the floor revealed no immediate danger to children and faculty.
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The New Jersey Work Environment Council issued their findings to the school board last month.
They state that infrastructure such “school multipurpose rooms, gyms, cafeterias, auditoriums, stages and indoor and outdoor tracks” that have been installed since the 1960s contain PMA (phenyl mercuric acetate). The chemical breaks down to release mercury when at room temperature.
“The floors and items that have been in contact with them emit mercury vapor indefinitely,” the report said.
The report goes on to explain the risk heightens when temperatures warm up. “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.”
The district said the amount of mercury is too small to pose a threat to people using the gymnasium on a daily basis, but air quality will be monitored as warmer temperatures roll in during the spring.
The school said they plan to replace the floor during renovations this summer.