Mercury is a naturally occurring metallic element that can be harmful to the nervous system if high quantities of elemental vapor are breathed, or if high quantities of methylmercury (a type of organic mercury) are ingested.  Since elemental mercury is no longer used to make to make household thermometers, the more common exposure these days is methylmercury contamination of food products.  Seafood contains methylmercury; however, the health benefits of seafood tend to outweigh the potential risk from mercury.

FDA and EPA advice about eating fish

Mercury in Gymnasium Flooring

You may have seen in the news that some older gymnasium floors may contain phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA), which can release very low levels of mercury vapor into the air from wear-and-tear of the floor. The health risk from this low exposure to mercury vapor is small, and medical testing is generally not recommended.

The key to addressing this issue in schools with PMA flooring is to increasing ventilation in schools to improve indoor air quality.  To ensure a healthy learning environment, parents can advocate that their school adopt the Tools for Schools Program, which has practical steps to reduce common air pollutants.

Want to learn more about this issue?

Check out our Advice for Caregivers from Environmental Pediatricians

Healthcare providers can review our Guidance document