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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation (S.6145/A.7986) Monday prohibiting the installation or covering of mercury-containing flooring in public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools.

"No parent should have to fear their child will be exposed to mercury vapors at school," Cuomo said. "With this measure, New York is joining a small group of states that have taken this aggressive action to protect our children's health and safety."

Rubber-like gymnasium floors commonly installed in schools from the 1960's through the 1990's often contained mercury and have begun to deteriorate. Some of the old floors are now emitting mercury vapors, even in instances where new wooden floors have been installed over the old mercury-containing flooring.

Exposure to mercury vapor is harmful, and children are more susceptible. Exposure can result in memory loss, tremors, respiratory failure and death. In late April 2019, Miller Place High School in Suffolk County discovered high levels of mercury vapors during renovations of its gymnasium, forcing the school to close the gym.

The legislation specifically amends the environmental conservation law, setting a time-weighted average mercury vapor exposure limit for employees or students of 750 ng/m3. The law takes effect immediately and applies to installations after January 1, 2021.

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