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Assessment and Management of Mercury-Catalyzed Polyurethane Gym Floors: 10 Lessons from 10 New Jersey School Districts

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Objective: Mercury catalyzed polyurethane (MCPU) floors installed in K-12 gymnasiums may release mercury vapor presenting possible mercury exposure to teachers and students. Varied approaches to sampling, air monitoring, ventilation, evacuation of gyms and/or removal of the floor coverings have occurred. As many gyms are being converted to classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic, effective assessment and management of these floors is essential. Methods:Mercury assessment strategies for 10 New Jersey schools with MCPU floors were reviewed to assist school districts with decisions for management in-place or removal. Results:Bulk mercury levels do not predict airborne mercury levels. Mercury generation rates ranged between 0.02 to 0.17 μg/ft 2/ hour. Hazards encountered during removal are substantial. Conclusions:Decisions to manage or remove mercury catalyzed rubber-like gym floor should be based upon a rigorous multi-factor assessment. Mercury exposures often can be managed via HVAC, added ventilation, temperature, and maintenance controls. A statewide registry of MCPU floors should be considered. Removal of MCPU floors should be professionally monitored to protect teachers, staff, and students.
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Keywords: COVID-19; INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE; MERCURY CATALYZED POLYURETHANE; MERCURY VAPOR; OCCUPATIONAL MEDICINE; PHENYL MERCURIC ACETATE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2021

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  • Health Behavior and Policy Review is a rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly bi-monthly publication that seeks manuscripts on health behavior or policy topics that represent original research, including papers that examine the development, advocacy, implementation, or evaluation of policies around specific health issues. The Review especially welcomes papers that tie together health behavior and policy recommendations. Articles are available through subscription or can be ordered individually from the Health Behavior and Policy Review site.
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