MILLER PLACE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There has been mercury exposure at three schools on Long Island.
Tests show vapors in flooring of two elementary schools and a high school, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Monday.
Rubberized synthetic flooring was installed in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut schools from the 1960s to the 1990s by pouring two liquid resins together. Mercury was sometimes used as a catalyst.
Web Extra: Long Island Lawmakers Discuss Mercury Exposure At Schools:
Several Long Island districts have shut down portions of school buildings after tests found mercury vapors coming from synthetic, rubber-like polyurethane flooring. So far, three on Long Island have found low levels of mercury vapor — in a multipurpose room at the Norman J. Levy Elementary School in Merrick, in and around the gymnasium at Park Avenue Elementary School in Amityville, and in the gym at Miller Place High School.
Lawmakers are calling for a wider state investigation.
“Today we are calling for two things,” state Sen. Todd Kaminsky said. “First is for the state Department of Education to take action, figure out how widespread the problem is and come up with a comprehensive solution to deal with it. Second, I’ve introduced legislation that will finally create a standard of how much toxic mercury vapor can be permitted in our schools.”
Schools told McLogan and parents that there is no threat to children and the rooms and gymnasiums were closed only as a precaution.
“I’ve worked on environmental issues for three decades and to find mercury vapors in school is a new and emerging issue and also a very disturbing one,” said Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “All these schools that are issuing statements, which I believe is premature, which says everything is fine and the children are safe. we want to believe that and we hope that’s true, but we don’t know that yet.”
Sarah and Ed Cress of Amityville spoke for many in their community.
“I wouldn’t want my child going into a school where they could be breathing in vapors that could be harmful,” Ed Cress said.
Health experts say mercury vapors can accumulate in the body and eventually affect brain function. It is odorless and colorless. Warning signs in children include kidney problems.
“The flooring that we are dealing with now, it would take millennia before you would actually get to a level where it would be toxic in the body,” said Dr. John Zaso of the Nassau County Board of Health. “What we are telling parents is, don’t panic about this if your children have no symptoms. But if you are concerned you can always go to your doctor and get a level done easily and that will allay your fears.”
There is no New York state standard for mercury exposure in schools. So far the schools affected say out of an abundance of caution they will remove and replace the flooring when schools are closed, McLogan reported.