How toxic are old houses

Poison in prefabricated houses

Broadcast date

Wed, 07/27/16 | 9.45 p.m.

The first

The prefabricated wooden house is explained in the ARD technology guide from March 1974. Back then, another highly advertised piece of news on the real estate market:

“What does the inside of a prefabricated wooden house actually look like? Chipboard below, between the slats mineral fiber mats as thermal insulation. Chipboard treated with wood preservatives are nailed on top of it. Asbestos-cement panels on the top with hot-dip galvanized mouse wire. As simple as that."

This house in Neunkirchen was built in the 1970s using this so-called timber frame construction - like thousands of other houses in West Germany. Chemically impregnated according to DIN standards. In 2010 the N. family bought. A permanent construction site to this day.

Homeowner Sandra N .: “And we have not yet renovated here, everything is still in its original state, we have already renovated it. This is all new now. "

Shortly after moving in, the young mother was constantly dizzy. It smelled musty. Investigations quickly uncovered the causes. Formaldehyde well above the limit value - and mold cultures.

Sandra N .: “At first we were alone with the problem, I was pretty scared. We hired an appraiser to examine the house, and he advised moving out, also because my son was only a few weeks old, which I did directly. "

The family stayed at home for months. Your lawyer negotiated a discount on the purchase price and renovations have been going on ever since. Always piece by piece, as far as there is enough money. To this day they are not finished.

Sandra N .: "These houses are passed on and families like us get into this situation and there is no protection."

Possible pollutants in 700,000 homes

Experts estimate that there are still around 700,000 older prefabricated houses today that could have such problems. The highly toxic biocides were only banned in December 1989. Until then, according to DIN 68800, chemical treatment was even stipulated by the state.

The B. couple also bought and renovated such a prefabricated house in Saarland two years ago. But after a few weeks they got sick. Eye irritation, headache, rash, listlessness. The so-called wood preservative syndrome. Even after the renovation: a musty smell. The house cost her 130,000 euros. And now?

Michael and Gaby B .: “The feeling is: you have a house and you can't live in it. That is depressing. It is also depressing that you stand here in the garden and could actually enjoy the sun here. You can't even go into the garden without it stinking. It's bad, just bad. "

The furniture bought after the renovation smells unbearable. Are now bulky waste. An elderly widow had previously lived here. During the house inspection, the family says, the real estate agent explained the strong smell with years of renovation backlog and old carpeting. The couple believed him.

Only later did an expert report bring clarity. After the measured formaldehyde values, the expert Dr. Johannes Däges to a clear result. "So a cancer risk can no longer be ruled out here"

Many building biologists are still busy with the building materials and wood preservatives from that time. Also at the University Clinic Freiburg. It was a fashion trend for many to paint their interior wood with chemicals. With wood protection that could make you sick. Today's conclusion by Armin Schuster at the Freiburg University Hospital:

“Chemical wood protection in the interior, even with support elements, is a wrong path. The reason? One wanted to sell - very simply. "

Legislators must act

The beams were advertised to bow. Plusminus was one of the first television magazines to point out the dangers in 1977. But it was not until December 1989 that toxic substances in wood preservatives were banned. The Greens are stubbornly calling for a work-up. And concrete help.

Peter Meiwald, Member of the Bundestag, environmental policy spokesman B'90 / Greens: “We need measurements in the indoor air, we need a funding program so that buildings can be renovated, and we need a lot of information for people so that they don't fall into the trap, that people get sick and afterwards say we want to sell the house again, we didn't know what we bought; but there has to be clarity, you can't leave that to the courts. The government has a duty there. "

The B. family now lives with relatives. Were they too gullible? They had relied on others. Also on the authorities. Because the previous owner was in need of care, the district even had the market value of the prefabricated house officially determined. 101,000 euros. The proceeds from the sale should help cover home expenses. Sparkasse and LBS acted as brokers. Pollution was not addressed.

Michael B., injured party: “I don't buy a house every day. I have to rely on it when I hire a broker. I also paid brokerage fees. In my opinion, this is a service provider for me that I will get good advice from. "

Nobody feels responsible

The LBS refers to the official appraisal of the district. Her broker orientated himself on that. But the district still sees no responsibility for the overpriced sale.

Although the district director is aware of the prefabricated house problem, she has no explanation for the valuation of the prefabricated house with 101,000 euros by her expert - despite the possible pollutants.

Birgit Mohns-Welsch, administrative director of the Neunkirchen district: “I don't know why he didn't determine it, didn't take it into account. Those are things that can happen, but they don't have to happen. "

But this also happened in the case of the B. family. A legal solution to the prefabricated house problem would be possible. An examination of the typical problematic substances costs around 1,200 euros. And could create security.

Armin Schuster from the UNI-Klinik Freiburg: “In the case of old houses, I really think it's a sensible approach to make a pollutant pass, analogous to the energy certificate for the old prefabricated houses, to find out about biocides, formaldehyde and mold that are involved, through inspection and, if necessary . to be clarified by measurements. "

A pollutant pass for prefabricated houses? We would have liked to ask the Federal Environment Minister about this. But we didn't get an interview from her house. The day before yesterday we were informed in writing that this idea was not considered feasible.

Family B. wants to cancel the purchase. Or at least get decent compensation from the previous owner. Tomorrow they have their first hearing at the regional court in Saarbrücken. Uncertain outcome.

Author: Mirko Tomic

Request to the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety regarding the introduction of a wood preservative pass for residential buildings:

The fact that problematic wood preservatives were used several decades ago does not in itself necessarily constitute evidence of current health hazards. Even a specific year of construction alone does not allow any corresponding conclusions. There were also alternatives in the 1960s and 70s, for example. The decisive factor is whether the treated wood in living rooms or other regularly used rooms still leads to relevant emissions today. Only then can health problems arise. This can only be determined in individual cases and cannot be answered across the board. The loads depend, among other things, on the amount of chemicals used, the "location" of the wooden parts in the house and the ventilation situation. Typically, wood preservatives were used in unoccupied attic storeys which, due to a lack of insulation, were at least well ventilated at the time and could not be used for residential purposes. If the treated beam structures in the roof have meanwhile been fitted with a contemporary roof extension, there will generally be no emissions into the newly created living space. From this we also conclude that there are no relevant burdens for people in many potentially affected houses today.

Against this background, a labeling requirement appears disproportionate. This would require an elaborate measuring program, namely in a non-quantifiable number of houses, since there are no official figures on houses in which problematic wood preservatives were used. Investigations would have to take place here too. It is at least questionable whether this effort is justified. The current data on PCP exposure in the German population justify the assumption that in the majority of cases no relevant exposure would be found. The PCP exposure of the population fell dramatically between 1982 and 2010, by 98%. This is proven by studies by the environmental specimen bank, in which human samples are also stored. The situation is similar for dioxins, with which the wood preservatives were partially contaminated. The dioxin pollution of the population is now much lower than in the past.

Finally, a general remark: Houses and properties can theoretically be contaminated with a large number of substances. When purchasing a property, it is therefore important to generally clarify the question of pollution and to actively inquire about it. Your reporting also contributes to this. In the end, the seller must provide sufficient information. If he cannot do this, it is up to each buyer to have a pollutant screening carried out. If it only becomes apparent in retrospect that a property is encumbered, civil law claims may have to be asserted. I refer to the answer to question 28 in BT-Ds. 18/3978.

As of November 23, 2016, 2:32 p.m.