2001
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Environment

Toxic classrooms …

… in Cologne are making children ill and parents angry. Inspections discover excessive formaldehyde, PCB and mould.

For over ten years now the Cologne's municipal health authority has been checking kindergartens and schools for toxic substances. They still haven't finished investigating all the 288 schools in Cologne, but for sixteen at least it is already clear that the pupils have not been suffering headaches just from the strain of learning, but from toxic wood preservatives in tables and chairs.

And that's not all: environmental health officers have found formaldehyde concentrations in eighteen other schools, and even the toxic chemical PCB in almost fifty. These two substances are considered potentially carcinogenic.

In eight schools rehabilitation measures must begin immediately. However, these toxic substances are not easy to clean up. In 1995 a primary school with dangerously high PCB values was rehabilitated; but three years later the levels began to rise again.

Even without PCB, other health problems can arise: as many as seventy other schools are so damp that mould has spread, causing asthma attacks and triggering allergies amongst the pupils and teachers.

Dirk Bitzer

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