formaldehyde in an office
Sick in an office room
Six months ago Anne Hopf took up her new job in a public authority in North-Hesse/Germany. She is sitting in an office space of twenty square meters, together with a colleague. In the room are built-in wardrobes, shelves and many about seventy well-stocked folder. Four weeks ago Anne Hopf complains often of headaches and burning eyes. The colleague of Anne, however, has no complaints. The supervisor has addressed the matter and commissioned a building biologists for root cause analysis. Based on the described symptoms and the existing spatial features, the expert suggests an air sample in formaldehyde.
Renovation of an old apartment turns into a lottery game
Marlene Sandner (Germany) wanted to replace the worn wooden floor in her old apartment in the city center with a new parquet floor. To her surprise, demolition work revealed a smelly old linoleum floor underneath the floorboards, which was obviously glued to the screed. The adhesive was already crumbling and showing signs of dissolution. After the linoleum was removed, remnants of the adhesive remained stuck to the screed. The flooring installer suggested sealing the surface twice with epoxy resin and smoothing out any remaining unevenness with a leveling compound. The new parquet was then to be laid on top. Marlene Sandner is still hesitant and is therefore seeking advice from the environmental consultancy.
Floor identified as source of pollutants
How to find pollutants in the house
When looking for the source of pollutants in the indoor air, Oliver Zenkel always focuses on the floor first. The building biologist draws on several years of experience and also provides a simple reason. Although walls have the larger surface portion at a dwelling, but floors are usually multi-layered developed and thus substantially more susceptible for pollutant entries into the ambient air. Zenkel views flooring as a system in which not only the individual material plays a role, but also the interaction of the components.
prefabricated house real estate check
Building biologists are regularly asked for advice
Prefabricated houses from the seventies are part of the fixed portfolio of real estate agents. Mostly, the offers are tempting for young families. The most important plus points are considered to be a prime location, a relatively large plot of land, a good room layout and, ultimately, a favorable price. Too often, homebuyers suppress the problem of pollutants in older prefabricated houses. Even fifty years after completion, certain groups of pollutants have not yet been aired out.
Gamma rays in building materials endanger health
The European Union (EU) has developed the Activity Concentration Index to assess radiation exposure
The large-scale installation of radioactive building materials indoors can endanger the health of the occupants. Granite, tuff or pumice are building materials with radioactive potential. However, sand, gravel, limestone and natural gypsum can also be radioactively contaminated under certain circumstances. The builder does not always know which rock is in a product. For example, a masonry block is offered under the brand name “Liapor”, without the buyer knowing that pumice rock is hidden behind it. The European Union has therefore developed the Activity Concentration Index (ACI) to assess radiation exposure from building materials indoors. The Institute for Building Biology in Rosenheim (Germany) recommends an ACI value of less than 0.75 for health protection.
Air cleaner Dustcontrol
Mobile air purifiers are booming in times of pandemics. Manufacturers of these devices outbid each other with superlatives. The German statutory accident insurance (DGUV) sees the use of the air recirculation units in a much more differentiated way. For example, the accident insurer points out important boundary conditions that must be observed when using the devices in classrooms.
Renovating a house from the 1960s
A young family in Thuringia (Germany), full of enthusiasm, renovated a house from the 1960s. They wanted to keep the floorboards on the first floor and started sanding off the top layer. But after a short time the Stickler family was very sober. During the work it started to stink terribly. Ms. Stickler also worried about her child’s health. A building biologist should investigate the process to find the reason for the unpleasant smell. The expert sampled the room air using the TENAX method (2 liters of air at a volume flow of 100 milliliters per minute). As a precaution, he took a material sample from the flooring.
Naphtalene found in the air of two classrooms
Measurement results showed a pollution with naphthalene
In a primary school in Saxony (Germany), odor problems had arisen in two classrooms and in the staff room since the building was renovated. When a new rector took office in 2018, the matter really got going. Ms. Rubens (name changed) not only had a sensitive nose, but increasingly complained of a headache as soon as she was in the staff room. The school administration informed the city administration as the responsible cost bearer. The local building authority then commissioned an engineering office to investigate the indoor air. The measurement results showed a clear pollution of the room air with naphthalene. Since even the guideline II of the German Federal Environment Agency was exceeded with 20 µg / m³, no lessons were allowed to take place in the rooms from now on. A review of the construction plans showed that the school was built in 1964. Therefore, the experts consulted assumed that the building was contaminated. The energetic renovation in 2017 had obviously exacerbated the smell problem. The airtight facade and the lack of controlled ventilation ensured that the pollutants in the indoor air could accumulate more.
Carpets may contain toxins
People love their carpets – 1.8 million tonnes are sold in Europe year after year. This is also the second largest carpet market next to the USA. The market leader today is Tarkett in France, followed by the Balta Group from Belgium. The production of a carpet takes place in several production steps. Each of the work stages uses a wide range of chemicals. The toxins contained therein later exhale into the room air or they are inhaled by the inhabitants as dust particles. Toxic chemicals are also the main obstacle to environmentally sound disposal. That’s why 1.6 million tons land in the waste incineration plant every year.
In mid-June 2018 press and television in Germany reported a request from the Left Party regarding a redevelopment concept for public buildings in the Saarland (Germany). The state government admitted that not all of these buildings had been systematically examined for PCB contamination. “The current building stock is not under general PCB suspicion,” says the state government and adds that there is no fundamental obligation for exploration PCB. “However, if refurbishment measures are planned for day care centers, precautionary measures will be carried out in the affected areas on the joints filled with PCBs”. Jochen Flackus, the parliamentary managing director of the Left Party, calls on the state government to develop a concept for the rehabilitation of PCB-contaminated buildings. Flackus points out that until around the 1980s, around 20,000 tons of PCB had been used as sealants in schools, kindergartens and other public buildings throughout Germany.