Rubberized Gymnasium Flooring

gym floor mat

School gymnasium floors

Rubberized gymnasium floors at four Beaufort County School District schools have been found to contain small amounts of mercury that emit mercury vapor into the air.  Although mercury vapor can cause adverse health effects, air-quality testing at all four schools has determined that vapor levels are not high enough to exceed safety standards so long as heating and air-conditioning systems are operating normally. 

The four are Beaufort Middle School, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, Islands Academy and Robert Smalls International Academy.

The gym floor issue was discussed extensively at an August 10 Beaufort County Board of Education meeting.  Following that discussion, Board members voted to conduct periodic air-quality testing in all four affected gyms and also to move toward constructing an extra layer of covering on the gym floors that need it.

In addition, the school district will:

  • Operate HVAC systems at all four schools with a priority on increased ventilation rather than financial efficiency. For example, thermostat levels in all four gyms will be lowered so HVAC systems will operate more frequently.The lower temperature will also reduce vaporization of mercury in the floors. Each school’s system also will be turned on earlier in the day to ensure that it has been running prior to gym use.
  • HVAC systems at all four schools will be closely monitored. If one of the schools’ HVAC systems breaks down, its gym will be closed. Once HVAC repairs have been made and normal operation restored, the gym will remain closed until it has been properly re-ventilated.
  • Retain a consulting firm to provide ongoing technical assistance. Air sampling protocols will be developed for each gym based on the consulting firm’s recommendations.
  • Recommend that any health questions from parents, teachers or staff be directed to their physicians.

Meetings will be scheduled at all four schools to provide information to staff and parents and also to answer questions.  Some probable questions are addressed in this Q&A / Q&A Spanish.

Air-quality test results at all four schools are available in this report.
Follow up air-quality test results are available in this report.

A presentation to the Beaufort County Board of Education, made on August 10, can be viewed in this video.

Additional information:
Center for Disease Control (CDC): Mercury Factsheet
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Mercury in Your Environment
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR): Mercury Quick Facts
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):  Mercury Vapor

Note: There are several commonly used measurements used when communicating about mercury vapor concentrations.  They include nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) or micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3).

To get an idea of scale:

  • One nanogram is 1/1000th of a microgram.
  • The concentration in the air of 0.14 micrograms per cubic meter is comparable to 1/2 a sugar packet evenly distributed throughout the entire volume of the Superdome.

These online measurement tools will allow users to compare milligrams to nanograms or micrograms to nanograms.