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Bad Godesberg: New building of the city hall remains closed because of pollutants

Bad Godesberg : New building of the city hall remains closed because of pollutants

A part of the Godesberg town hall has been closed for years. The reason: pollutants. When and whether the affected rooms can be used again has not yet been determined. First, a decision has to be made on the specific use of the part of the building, according to the city.

Several years ago, pollutants were found in the rear building of Godesberg City Hall. Since then, the multi-story complex has only served as a storage facility for the employees of the Citizens' Registration Office. For visitors, however, the new building is completely closed. Walkers in the Redoutenpark look out onto a gray and darkened window front. Many blinds are down and cardboard boxes are piled up in some windows. If the building were not in the backyard of the Kurfürstliche Zeile, one might think it was a "lost place“.

Whether anything will change in the near future seems questionable, because the city administration is keeping a low profile with concrete statements about the future. "As soon as the future use of the site is clarified, the further procedure can be planned," says Markus Schmitz from the municipal press office when asked. On the other hand, he gets specific about the pollutants that were found in the building. "Formaldehyde was found in the built-in cabinets and light partition walls. The seals of the window systems are contaminated with PCB," says Schmitz.

Formaldehyde is suspected of being carcinogenic

Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungent-smelling substance that is present in gaseous form at room temperature. The substance was originally used mainly to make products durable (preservative). Its use increased considerably with its use as an adhesive component in wood-based materials, for example for furniture, interior finishing and prefabricated construction, writes the Federal Environment Agency. In June 2014, the EU had classified formaldehyde as "may cause cancer" based on new findings. Previously, the talk was still of "may probably cause cancer".

According to the Federal Environment Agency, rats that had repeatedly inhaled high concentrations of the substance developed tumors in the nasal cavity over the course of their lives. Scientific studies examining the effects of high levels of formaldehyde exposure in the workplace also revealed that exposed individuals were expected to develop more cases of cancer in the nasal cavity and nasopharynx later in life than they would have in the absence of formaldehyde. In turn, other studies in workers could not confirm these findings. Therefore, no classification was made in the highest category 1A, i.e., substances that are carcinogenic in humans.

The use of the synthetic construction chemical PCB has been banned in Germany since 1989

PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) is a synthetic construction chemical that was used in a variety of materials. PCB served mainly as a plasticizer in paints and plastics and stretching compound and as a coolant. In its pure form, it is virtually odorless. PCB is considered one of the most dangerous environmental toxins of all, and its use has been banned in Germany since 1989. The hazardous substance can be absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, through the skin or by inhaling vapors. As a rule, there is no acute, immediate danger of poisoning for humans. In the long term, however, PCBs can lead to liver, spleen and kidney damage, and there is a suspicion of carcinogenic potential.

In order to rule out any possible dangers to users here, the building has already been closed off for several years, says Schmitz. "Only individual rooms are still used there, for example as storage rooms." One of these rooms is the Oppelner Heimatstube, where paintings, models, jugs and books are stored. The Kulturstiftung der deutschen Vertriebenen (Cultural Foundation of German Expellees) recently had the room and its contents completely digitized (GA reported). The exhibits have to be moved out of the room through several corridors into the neighboring building before they can be photographed in an office.

Warning signs missing at entrances

District Mayor Christoph Jansen recently visited the Heimatstube and had the digitization process demonstrated to him. The GA was also invited for the press event. Jansen said on site that those present were allowed to stay in the closed building for a maximum of 90 minutes for safety reasons.

Warning signs that could inform visitors and employees about the hazardous materials are not posted at the entrances. Only signs reading "Closed due to Corona" hang on the building doors. The files and exhibits in storage are not at risk from the pollutants, Jansen said at the site. It is not known whether the Oppelner Heimatstube will reopen in its old location. Interested parties will at least be able to view the exhibits on the Internet starting in September, at www.heimatsammlungen.de.