GLE Associates - Facilities and Environmental Consultants

Mercury Containing Athletic Flooring


A rubber-like flooring material was developed by 3M in the 1960's, with a product name of Tartan. Tartan was promoted as a substitute and an improvement over  indoor wood gymnasium floors, as well as in outdoor track and field facilities. The product, as reported by 3M, was manufactured from 1960 through 1980. It has also been reported that other manufacturers copied 3M and developed similar products and the 3M name of Tartan may have developed into a generic term when referring to this type of material. This flooring material is a mixture of liquid polymers and was applied wet to the floor surface. What is significant about this product is that mercury was used in the polymer mixture as a catalyst to produce the final solid rubber like flooring material.

Studies have shown that exposure to mercury through inhalation or ingestion  may lead to brain and kidney damage. Children are more susceptible to mercury exposure than adults. Studies conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR) in Minnesota and Oregon schools have been conducted to determine the levels of mercury vapors present in school facilities which contain the "Tartan"-type of flooring. These studies found that ambient concentrations of mercury vapor within the schools can vary from below being a recognized health concern, to levels that were above recommended exposure limits. Recommended control mechanisms for intact mercury containing flooring by ASTDR in both of these studies were to "cap" the material and/or increase fresh air ventilation in the space to lower the mercury vapor concentrations in the affected space.

GLE has completed assessment studies and removal oversight at three (3) public universities within Florida and Georgia, where mercury-containing rubber flooring on gymnasium floors was present. The objective during these evaluations was to determine removal methodologies that would protect the personnel completing the removal, future occupants of the space, and the environment. GLE conducted preliminary assessments of the materials impacted by the remediation efforts which included the mercury containing flooring, the concrete substrate, and background levels of ambient mercury vapors in the spaces. These assessments led to the development of a remediation protocol that included worker protection measures, material and substrate handling, storage and disposal, as well as clearance criteria for the project. The protocol was further refined following removal test cases conducted using various types of removal practices of the material, residue and the impacted concrete substrate.

Based on the completion of each of these three projects, GLE has found that each facility and mercury-containing material posed a unique set of characteristics, which need to be evaluated on a case by case basis to arrive at a protective and effective remediation strategy.



GLE Associates is a Facilities and Environmental Consulting Firm that services the following cities and surrounding areas: Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Gainesville, and Ft Lauderdale, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee.