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Asbestos

Asbestos is a collective term for various naturally occurring, fibrous crystallised silicate minerals which, after processing, produce technically usable fibres of different lengths. An important representative is Chrysotile (White Asbestos).

Asbestos has also been called "miracle fibre" because it has great strength, is heat and acid resistant, provides excellent insulation and the asbestos fibres can be spun into yarns and these can be woven together. With these prerequisites, asbestos was able to establish itself in the heat insulation, the construction industry and for textiles in the field of occupational safety and filtration, among others. In the 1960s and 1970s in particular, it was used in a wide variety of products, including panels, cardboard, floor coverings, adhesives, mortars, fillers, plasters, foams, etc. Because of the now clearly identified health risks posed by asbestos, its use is now prohibited in many countries. In 1984, weakly bound asbestos products were banned in Germany. In 1995, an extensive ban on the manufacture and use of materials containing asbestos followed, with very few exceptions. In Europe, a general ban on the manufacture and use of asbestos was not introduced until 2005.

Due to the widespread use of asbestos in older construction products, expert examinations of the building fabric are advisable during modernisation and demolition measures in older buildings. Asbestos is increasingly becoming an issue, particularly in the upgrading of ventilation and fire protection equipment in buildings (heating systems, fire dampers, etc.).

Asbestos cement window sill

Asbestos cement window sill

Sprayed asbestos

Sprayed asbestos

Floor Flex Tiles

Floor Flex Tiles

 

Benzene

The ring-shaped compound benzene (C6H6) belongs to the group of BTEX aromatics. It is liquid, colourless, highly flammable and has a characteristic aromatic odour. Benzene is an important starting product in the petrochemical industry. Its derivatives and secondary products are further processed in paints, pharmaceuticals, insecticides and plastics, among other things. It is also used in fuels (to increase the octane rating). Like all BTEX aromatics, benzene is highly volatile and very mobile. Benzene is classified as carcinogenic and toxic.

BTEX

BTEX is a collective term for the highly volatile aromatic hydrocarbons benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes. The BTEX aromatics are, among other things, a component of fuels (to increase the octane rating) and are used as solvents and degreasing agents. The single compound benzene is classified as carcinogenic. Due to their high volatility and high mobility (similar to that of CHC), BTEX aromatics can easily spread in soil and groundwater and accumulate in the soil air. However, they have a lower density than water and therefore do not sink into the groundwater body.

Carbolineum

Carbolineum is a tar-oil mixture with PAH as the active ingredient.

Chrysotile

Chrysotile belongs to the asbestos group and is also known as white asbestos. It is a fibrous layered silicate from the serpentine group.

Chrysotile was in the past mainly used for heat-resistant materials (e.g. heat-resistant clothing, thermal insulation, gaskets, ropes) and to increase the material stability in fibre cement panels (facades, roofs). However, other areas (e.g. older bituminous sealing compounds and sealants in road and bridge construction, mortars, plasters, fillers, etc.) may also contain chrysotile asbestos.

For this reason, it is advisable to carry out an expert examination of the building fabric in the case of modernisation and demolition measures as well as the upgrading of air conditioning and fire protection building equipment (heating systems, fire dampers, etc.), especially in older buildings from the 1960s to 1980s.

Chrysotile Fibers

Chrysotile Fibers

Damaged stop seal with chrysotile in fire damper

Damaged stop seal with chrysotile in fire damper

Plasterboard filler with chrysotile

Plasterboard filler with chrysotile

COP

The organochlorine pesticides or organochlorine pesticides (OCP) are a group of widely used pesticides. These include:

  • DDT
  • alpha-, beta-, gamma-HCH (Lindane) and delta-HCH
  • Aldrin
  • Dieldrin
  • alpha-, beta-Endosulfan
DDT

Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was mainly used in the former GDR and in US properties as a wood preservative and for pest control. Sometimes DDT was also added to wall paints. Due to the long years of use, massive contamination of the building fabric often occurred. It accumulates in the food chain and in the human body. Carcinogenic and mutagenic effects have been shown in animal experiments. In 1972 the use of DDT was banned in the FRG and in 1990 in the former GDR.

HBCD

HBCD or HBCDD stands for hexabromocyclododecane and is a ring-shaped, brominated hydrocarbon molecule. Because of its technical properties, HBCD was mainly used as a flame retardant for plastics and was therefore mainly used in building insulation materials made of polystyrene (EPS / XPS), and to some extent also in packaging plastics (EPS). In May 2013 HBCD was classified as a persistent pollutant (POP) under the international Stockholm Convention. This resulted in a worldwide ban on trade and use (with transitional periods). Since 22 March 2016, no products (substances, mixtures and articles) containing more than 100 mg/kg HBCD may be manufactured and sold in the EU. A temporary exemption for polystyrene (EPS) ended on February 21, 2018. Insulation materials containing HBCD are not classified as "hazardous waste" in Germany, but separate collection, mixing, proof and registration are required.

Polystyrene panels for thermal insulation in wall areas

Polystyrene panels for thermal insulation in wall areas

Polystyrene insulation boards under roofing

Polystyrene insulation boards under roofing

Extruded polystyrene insulation boards (green) in floor construction

Extruded polystyrene insulation boards (green) in floor construction

 

KMF

The KMF are industrially produced artificial mineral fibres. There are four groups: glass wool (white or yellow long fibres), rock wool (darker, green-yellow fibres), slag wool (dark, brownish fibres; not very common) and ceramic fibres (white; high-temperature wool).

The KMFs were and are primarily used for heat and sound insulation (e.g. in roofs, ceilings and walls, in ventilation and heating systems), partly also as a substitute for products containing asbestos. KMF produced before 1996 are called "old mineral wool". These can release respirable fibres with low biodegradability and are therefore classified as carcinogenic. After a transitional phase, only biodegradable mineral fibres with the RAL quality mark have been allowed to be placed on the market since 2000.

Mineral fibre products

Mineral fiber products

KMF in old fire door

KMF in old fire door

Roof insulation from KMF

Roof insulation from KMF

Lead

The heavy metal lead is easily malleable and has a relatively low melting point. It can be found in many different ways in the building industry. Among other things as lead sheet (roofing and edging), as lead pipes (domestic installations), as lead foil (around cables), as lead solder (glazing), as lead wool (caulking of joints), as colour pigment (lead carbonate = lead white/"Bleiweiß"; lead sulphate), as lead grenades (corrosion protection). It develops its toxicity mainly in the form of dust or in dissolved form.

Lindane

Lindane is an insecticide and has been used for a long time in wood preservatives (including until 1978 in the products Xylamone and Xyladecor). Lindane has been banned in the EU since 2008.

OCP

The organochlorine pesticides or chlororganic pesticides (COP) is a group of widely used pesticides. These include:

  • DDT
  • alpha-, beta-, gamma-HCH (Lindane) and delta-HCH
  • Aldrin
  • Dieldrin
  • alpha-, beta-Endosulfan
Old Mineral Wool

see KMF.

PAH

PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons are mainly formed during incomplete combustion processes of organic materials and other pyrolytic processes. Only a minority of PAHs are industrially synthesized and serve as a basis for the chemical industry. PAHs consist of at least two condensed benzene rings. They are divided into low-molecular PAHs (2-3 rings) and higher molecular PAHs (4-6 rings). PAHs are predominantly neutral, non-polar solids and only very slightly soluble in water. With increasing number of condensed rings, volatility and solubility (also in organic solvents) decrease.

Of the several hundred known PAH compounds, 16 individual substances are of particular importance. These have been selected by the US-EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) as lead substances for environmental analytical investigations and are analysed, for example, in the field of contaminated site investigation and drinking water testing. Some PAHs (e.g. benzo[a]pyrene) are classified as mutagenic or carcinogenic compounds.

PAHs can be found, inter alia, in older asphalt pavements, parquet adhesives, tar and roofing felt, welded sheets, black paints and joint sealants, often in combination with chrysotile (white asbestos).

Parquet adhesive containing tar

Parquet adhesive containing tar

Bituminous sheeting containing tar

Bituminous sheeting containing tar

Asphalt with high tar content

Asphalt with high tar content

PCB

The group of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) comprises a total of 209 compounds. They were mainly used as plasticizers (jointing compounds), flame retardants (paints, varnishes) and insulating oils (transformer oils, capacitors, etc.). In the building industry, permanently elastic joint sealants, paints / varnishes on mineral material, wood or chipboard, coloured stone plasters, grouting and filling compounds and floor covering adhesives were frequent areas of application. The open application (sealants, paints) was prohibited in 1978. A general ban in Germany (also in transformers, capacitors, etc.) followed in 1989. PCBs are persistent, i.e. they accumulate in the environment and in organisms. They are also toxic and are suspected of being carcinogenic.

Acoustic ceiling panel type

Acoustic ceiling panel type "Odenwald"

Wipe-resistant paint with PCB

Wipe-resistant paint with PCB

Permanently elastic joint sealant in wall joint

Permanently elastic joint sealant in wall joint

 

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