Assemblywoman Griffin’s Legislation Keeping Mercury out of Schools Signed into Law

Assemblywoman Judy Griffin (D-Rockville Centre) announced that legislation she sponsored ensuring gymnasium floors in schools do not contain mercury was signed into law (Ch. 565 of 2019).

“There’s nothing more important than keeping our children out of harm’s way,” Griffin said. “So when schools right here on Long Island discovered their floors contained mercury, I knew I had to take action. With this critical new law in effect, students and teachers can rest assured that the schools they attend each day are safe from harmful chemicals. I thank the governor for signing this into law and helping us protect New York’s students and educators.”

Overexposure to mercury can cause serious health problems and can be especially harmful to children, as it can lead to impaired neurological development, memory loss, tremors, respiratory failure and even death.[1] Recent studies have shown that children are commonly exposed to the dangerous vapor at school through old gymnasium floors installed in the 1990s or earlier. Although some schools have now installed new wooden floors on top of them, they are still emitting mercury vapors and pose a threat to students and teachers.[2]

Griffin’s new law combats this serious problem by prohibiting all elementary and secondary schools from installing mercury-containing floors or covering mercury-containing floors. It also protects students and school employees from long-term exposure to mercury by setting the time-weighted average mercury vapor exposure limit to 750 ng/m.

This comes after three Long Island school districts were forced to close their gymnasiums after tests found mercury vapor coming from their floors. Earlier this year, Miller Place High School had to close its facilities after mercury was found coming from an old floor that had been covered by wood. Amityville and Merrick elementary schools also had to shut down their gymnasiums after low levels of mercury vapor were detected.[3] Addressing this serious health threat is long overdue, and this new law ensures our schools are safe places to learn and work, Griffin noted.