Dippoldiswalde: Goldsmith must close store because of radon

Since 2021, entrepreneurs in the Ore Mountains have had to measure the radon concentration in their rooms. With sometimes severe consequences, as a case in Dippoldiswalde now shows.

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Man sieht eine Schmuckverkäuferin in einem Schaufenster.
Sarah Böhme in her jewelry workshop store in Dresden. There is still to be a sale in Dippoldiswalde. © Karl-Ludwig Oberthür

By Siiri Klose

The red notes in the windows of the jewelry workshop do not bode well: "Dear customers, the store is closing! This is bad news for Dippoldiswalde. The keyword is store death: Kathrin Siegel's former folk art store on the corner of Herrengasse has not found a new tenant in over a year. With Sarah Böhme now goes an energetic, well-trained, in Dippoldiswalde very appreciated master goldsmith.

But not because of a lack of customers. "From a purely economic point of view, there was no reason at all to close the store," says Sarah Böhme. The unusual reason is also written on the red notices: "This property is contaminated with radon." That is the result of measurements in the store premises, which took more than two years.

Radon increases the risk of lung cancer

Radon has been an issue in the Ore Mountains since 2019 at the latest. At that time, a new radiation protection ordinance came into force, which is supposed to protect people from radon in recreation rooms and workplaces. "If you breathe in radon and its radioactive by-products at an elevated level over a longer period of time, the risk of developing lung cancer increases," writes the Federal Office for Radiation Protection on its Website.

According to the Radiation Protection Office, around five percent of all lung cancer cases in Germany can be attributed to a long-term, regular stay in rooms contaminated with radon. That is about 1,900 cases per year. "This makes radon one of the most important causes of lung cancer after smoking," it says.

Whole Erzgebirge is radon precautionary area

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection has set 300 becquerels (Bq) per cubic meter as the reference value. The federal states had the task of identifying so-called radon precautionary areas. These are areas where random measurements regularly showed more than 300 becquerels per cubic meter. Old mining areas are particularly at risk. Consequently, almost every Erzgebirge municipality appears in the precautionary areas defined by Saxony by December 31, 2020 - including Dippoldiswalde.

Since 2021, anyone who has rooms on the first floor or in the basement for work or other regular occupancy - from goldsmiths' workshops to kindergartens - has to take measurements. Peer Kempe, landlord of the Eschenhof in Ammelsdorf, was lucky: "Fortunately, the values were not conspicuous in our case. Glashütte, on the other hand, is now facing the closure of the Dittersdorf kindergarten.

House on the market 20 belongs to the city of Dippoldiswalde

During the first measurements in Sarah Böhme's business premises, the value was 1,000 Bq. "After that, the measuring device stops measuring because then the measuring foil was full," the goldsmith recounts. Over the past two and a half years, she has become a professional when it comes to radon issues. "I had to inform my employees about the levels. It's mandatory." She also informed her landlord. The house at Markt 20 belongs to the town of Dippoldiswalde, which has it managed by the Dresden-based company R&M Immobilienmanagement.

After the excessively high level of contamination was determined at the end of 2021, point two of the regulation on dealing with radon took effect: According to the responsible Saxon Ministry of the Environment, measures to reduce the radon concentration must be taken within the next 30 months and "verified by repeated measurement." Specifically, airing in the morning and at noon is recommended. "We aired all the time, even in winter. Our fingers froze when we worked," recalls Sarah Böhme.

Exterior wall to the water alley particularly stressed

At the end of 2022, it was clear that her rooms would not fall below a value of 600 or 800 Bq. But because the entrepreneur rented more sensitive equipment this time - as she had financed herself before - and at the same time kept a ventilation log, she was better able to narrow down the problem: "It turned out that especially the outer wall of the workshop facing Kleine Wassergasse was particularly contaminated." She detected over 5000 Bq there.

The radon gas enters the rooms through the basement, old joints and cracks, especially in old buildings. In 2011, the Freital mine safety team discovered traces of medieval mining underground in the Kleine Wassergasse. - a sensation at the time and a reason why Dippoldiswalde became part of the World Heritage Site Montanregion Erzgebirge. So under the market 20 reach under circumstances not only joints and cracks in the ground, but entire tunnel systems.

City of Dippoldiswalde made no offer

If ventilation did not help, there remained structural measures such as the installation of barrier foils or the sealing of cracks and crevices. But in this respect, the city of Dippoldiswalde, as the owner of the property, obviously did not want to do anything, nor did it want to participate in an air filtration system.

"In the end, the city offered me only three options. First: to tolerate the situation as it is. Second: To buy the house and renovate it myself. Or third: to make use of a special right of termination," says master goldsmith Sarah Böhme. Another store space in the city had not been offered to her as an alternative. "However, I have so much on my plate at the moment that I would not have been able to manage a move at all." Sä had not received an answer from the Dippoldiswalde town council by the time of going to press.

Before the closure, a sale is planned in August

At the beginning of 2023, Sarah Böhme took over a jewelry store in Dresden. She has just used up her reserves - which were not ample anyway from the time of the store closures during the Corona years - for this. Nevertheless, she wanted to continue running the store in Dippoldiswalde - at least until the end of the year. "It's hard for me to say goodbye. I grew up in Dippoldiswalde. I have been running the jewelry workshop for over 18 years. Of course, I didn't want to just tell my customers my reasons for closing on a piece of paper," she says.

But with the prospect of working in Dresden in the future, her employees would have quickly reoriented themselves, and two employees quit. This means that she can no longer keep the store in Dippoldiswalde open from one day to the next. A sale is still planned for the end of August. On the board of the Dippoldiswalde Trade and Commerce Association, Sarah Böhme nevertheless remains connected to the town: "Dippoldiswalde is still important to me."

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