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DHS news release

March 8, 2006


Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (971) 731-4180
Technical contact: Jae Douglas (503) 872-5356

Salem-Keizer Schools public health consultation complete; public comment invited

The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) invites public comment on its report about the potential health risk of inhaling mercury vapors emanating from a floor covering used in 21 Salem-Keizer school gymnasiums.

The DHS report concluded that no apparent health hazard exists to students, faculty or community groups who use the gymnasiums in the school district.

The public health consultation report is available at the Salem-Keizer School District Communications Office, Lancaster Professional Center at 2450 Lancaster Dr. NE, Suite 260 in Salem, or online at the DHS Superfund W​eb site. 

"We found relatively low levels of mercury vapor," said Jae Douglas, Ph.D., epidemiologist in DHS. "It is unlikely that anyone exposed to these vapors would suffer adverse health effects."

The report also recommends that the school district annually monitor gymnasiums that have the flooring. If monitoring ever detects mercury levels higher than the level considered safe for adults working and children playing in the environment up to eight hours per day, five days a week, access to the gymnasium should be limited until the flooring has been capped or removed, the report advises.

In January, the Salem-Keizer School District asked that DHS complete a health consultation to assess risks to adults and children who came into contact with the flooring. Manufactured from the early 1960s through 1980 and sold as 3M Tartan brand flooring, it is a rubber-like polymer floor covering that contains 0.1 to 0.2 percent mercury.

Public comments to the consultation must be received by 5 p.m. on April 20, 2006. Comments may be faxed to (503) 872-5398, or emailed to jae.p.douglas@state.or.us or sent by regular mail to the SHINE program, 800 N.E. Oregon Street No. 827, Portland OR 97232.