Beaufort Co. School District looking for fixes after gym floors - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Beaufort Co. School District looking for fixes after gym floors test positive for mercury

(Source: Beaufort County School District) (Source: Beaufort County School District)

The Beaufort County School District is looking for fixes after the gymnasium floor in four schools tested positive for mercury.

The school district was planning on replacing the floor at an older gym in Hilton Head, so when the contractor notified the school how bad the issue was, the district decided to get all gym floors tested.

The four schools are Robert Smalls Academy, Beaufort Middle School, Island Academy and Hilton Head School of the Creative Arts. 

According to the school district, the level of mercury vapor is potentially dangerous for students. Reportedly, when the air conditioner is running the mercury is not active, but it is an issue when the air conditioner is out.

According to an article from the New Jersey School Board Association, many manufacturers began to include mercury in rubberized gym floor products in the 60s to help keep the rubber flexible over time.

Here are some key facts about mercury from the World Health Organization:

  • Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and soil.
  • Exposure to mercury – even small amounts – may cause serious health problems, and is a threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.
  • Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
  • Mercury is considered by WHO as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.
  • People are mainly exposed to methylmercury, an organic compound, when they eat fish and shellfish that contain the compound.
  • Methylmercury is very different to ethylmercury. Ethylmercury is used as a preservative in some vaccines and does not pose a health risk.

Officials say their priority is not saving money with the AC. They will regulate the temperature to 68 degrees to keep the conditions safe. Principals say these precautions guarantee your child's safety. 

"I wouldn't be loving the opening of school if I had any hesitation that I was going to put kids in an unsafe situation," said Gretchen Keefner, Principal, Hilton Head School for Creative Arts. "I don't have any children of my own so the kids at my school are my kids."

"I feel confident that kids at our school and in our district in these four schools in particular based on this presentation made today are safe and will continue to rise," said Jennifer Morillo, Principal, Robert Smalls International Academy. 

All parents of these schools will receive a robocall Friday night explaining the situation. 

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