INDOOR‬ ‪POLLUTION

Im ‪Europarat‬ wurde die Problematik der ‪Innenraumschadstoffe‬ bereits vor Jahren diskutiert. Dass ‎Innenräume‬ durch zu viele ‪Schadstoffe‬ ‎kontaminiert‬ sind und diese auch ‪Innenraumnutzer‬ erkranken lässt, wurde zweifelsfrei dokumentiert.
Wir fragen uns:

Was hat sich seitdem zum Positiven geändert?

Auszug aus dem Konferenz-Protokoll:

“SESSION 1 – ‪INDOOR‬ ‪POLLUTION‬

Charing by Mr Bill Etherington,

Member of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and
Local and Regional Affairs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Speakers:

– Mr Ralph BADEN, Ministry of Health of Luxembourg

– Mr Gerd OBERFELD, Sanitary Land Directorate for Environmental Medicine, Austria

– Professor Frédéric de BLAY, Responsible for the training programme on indoor pollution, University Hospitals of Strasbourg, France

Mr ETHERINGTON introduced Mr Ralph Baden from the Luxembourg Ministry of Health, who would be speaking about the experience of his country’s ‪#‎environmental‬ ‪#‎health‬ ‪#‎diagnostic‬ service (ambulances vertes).

Mr BADEN, who based his address on a series of tables and graphs which are appended to this document, explained that private individuals in Luxembourg who suspected their health problems were due to the ‪stressors‬ present in their ‪‎home‬ could contact the health services, either directly or through their doctor, and request a check of their home. He emphasised that his examples were not representative of all homes in Luxembourg.

There were three types of symptoms that led people to call for an ‪#‎ambulance‬ verte check: nose, eye, mouth or skin irritations; ‪respiratory‬ problems and ‪allergies‬; headaches, dizziness, nausea and joint and muscular pains.

The investigative services analysed various types of ‪#‎stressor‬: ‪#‎chemicals‬, ‪mould‬ and humidity, and ‪#‎physical‬ stressors, including both high and low ‎frequency‬ ‪#‎electromagnetic‬ ‪#‎fields‬. An analysis of the results of the past four years revealed that the stressors most often identified were ‎DDT‬ and ‪PCP‬, which were both well-known, ‪permethrin‬, a more recent stressor, flame ‪retardants‬, ‪volatile‬ organic compounds, ‎formaldehyde‬, mould and electromagnetic fields.

The stressors had changed from over the years. For example, formaldehyde contamination had been steadily declining for seven years, which was no doubt both because its use was now regulated and the result of an information campaign in the media. There was also a decline in associated volatile organic compounds such as benzene or toluene, but that decline was much less significant. Unfortunately, those classic volatile organic compounds had been replaced by lemonene, the use of which was growing even though it was carcinogenic and had a longer life. In a room that had just been repainted, for example, it took two years for the level to fall below the acceptable thresholds, which were doses fatal to rats. Lemonene was therefore just as toxic as, or even more toxic than, the products it had replaced. In that respect, regulation had therefore been insufficient.

With regard to biocides, it was surprising that contamination with DDT, which had after all been banned for thirty years, had not gone down over the years, any more than had contamination with PCP, which had been prohibited since 1994 in Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany but was still used in other European countries. That proved that national legislation was not enough, given the existence of a European market.

There was another family of stressors, namely flame retardants, which were mainly to be found in bedding. They were chemically similar to sarin, a toxic gas developed in the 1930s. 40% of the households tested were contaminated by flame retardants, either chlorine or non-chlorine based, and 34% of the mattresses tested were highly contaminated by either flame retardants or biocides such as permethrin or PCP. People affected by those very high concentrations suffered from mucous membrane or eye irritations, headaches, dizziness, respiratory problems, etc.

Mr Baden then mentioned a number of examples. First of all, that of a two-year-old boy, who coughed, spat and suffered from a runny nose when at home, but felt better outside his home. An analysis of his mattress had revealed a concentration of flame retardants and PCP. He had inhaled those substances every night for two years. His parents had followed the health services’ recommendations and changed the mattress, and he was now much better.

The next case was that of a four-year-old girl who had suffered from nasal congestion at night and in the morning. The health services had established the presence of formaldehyde in the air inside the home, especially in the mattress. The board underneath the mattress had been the source of the concentration, and removing it had been enough to bring about an improvement.

The third example was caused by the shiny floor of a school classroom. A varnish containing cypermethrin, a flame retardant, had been applied. After a two-hour meeting in the room, teachers had suffered from skin and eye irritations, headaches, dizziness, etc, but had felt better again after leaving. On the health services’ recommendations, the varnish had been removed, cypermethrin levels had fallen, both in the air and on the floor, and teachers and pupils alike no longer suffered from the symptoms described.

Another example was that of a woman who had begun to suffer from insomnia after moving house and had started to take sleeping tablets. The health services had detected the presence of very strong electrical and magnetic fields in her bedroom. The bed had been standing between two halogen lamps, which had permanently plugged-in transformers located behind the wooden headboard. These had simply been unplugged, and the woman had been able to stop taking sleeping tablets some time afterwards.

Yet another example was that of a woman aged 42 who had been suffering from headaches and dizziness. He doctor had asked her to keep a migraine diary, which had revealed the disappearance of the symptoms during a week when she had not been at home. The services that had visited the home had established that a significant electrical field was emanating from her bedside lamp and that its effects were amplified by a metal structure. On the floor, there had been a cordless DECT telephone base station, which was creating a field of 24 volts per metre. The woman had been advised to unplug the two devices, and a month later her migraine diary had revealed that the symptoms had completely disappeared.

Then there had been the case of a man aged 39 who was suffering from pins and needles in his right arm and a loss of feeling in his hands. A concentration of 1.6 mg/kg of pentachlorophenol, which had come from the insecticide sprayed on an old cupboard, was found in his bedroom. The cupboard had been removed from the bedroom, and the symptoms had disappeared a few months later.

The last case was that of a woman aged over 60 suffering from migraine, coughing and a loss of feeling in her hands. Her symptoms had only started two years before, but she had been living in the same flat for a long time. It had been two years before that she had repainted her balcony, and the problem had no doubt been triggered by the mixture of biocides, including propiconazole, contained in the paint.

Mr Baden said that those were enough examples, but concluded by pointing to the need to carry on with this kind of action. As Jean Rostand had said, waiting to know enough to act in full knowledge of all the facts was to condemn oneself to inaction.”

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