Press Release



Contamination of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) in Apartments with Parquet Flooring
Results of a symposium on 25 March 1998 at the Federal Environmental Agency

Measurements in apartments with wood parquet flooring in Frankfurt am Main previously used by the US Forces showed increased levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in the house dust on the floor. PAH is the collective term for a family of chemical substances which includes numerous compounds. Some PAH are regarded as carcinogenic. PAH are generated during incineration processes, but are also found in tar and bituminous products. Indoors, tobacco smoke is a significant source. PAH can be absorbed through the air, through skin contact and in food.

In Frankfurt, widely varying concentrations of PAH were found in the house dust, principally ranging between 10 and 1000 milligrammes per kilogramme (mg/kg). The cause of the increased PAH contcentrations is the glue used to fix parquet tiles. In some cases, the measurements looked at both house dust and suspended dust in indoor air. The PAH concentrations in indoor air corresponded to those measured outdoors. To determine PAH intake, urine samples from 60 children living in apartments with parquet flooring laid using tar or bitumen glue in Frankfurt were tested for metabolites of PAH and compared with those of 23 children from other apartments.

Similar cases of increased levels of PAH have been reported in Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Rheinland-Pfalz and Berlin.

Due to considerable public concern and the significance of the problem in a number of German states, the Federal Environmental Agency (FEA) responded to requests from the federal environment, health, construction and finance ministries by organising a symposium on 25th March 1998 in Berlin, to which scientists and officials from federal, state and municipal authorities were invited. The available data, some of it difficult to interpret, was brought together and evaluated, to create a uniform information base and arrive at a common assessment of the health risks arising from PAH contamination in apartments with parquet flooring. Because of the complexity of the problem, it was not possible at the time to formulate any concrete recommendations as to how PAH contamination could be reduced. For this reason, the experts will meet again soon to discuss the unsettled issues.

The results of the first meeting can be summed up as follows:

This calculation and the unresolved issues, in particular with respect to a suitable analytical procedure and the possibilities of reducing the amount of contamination, will be the subjects of discussion at a further symposium.

Berlin, 27/3/1998