You can literally feel the bad air in the world’s dirtiest city, the Indian capital, Delhi. Thirty years ago, the air in Germany was as bad as it is today in India. Then stricter environmental legislation brought improvements.
Air pollution is still a health hazard, especially in large cities. Today, Germany is bitterly arguing about banning diesel vehicles. The documentary explains why measures to reduce pollutants are important. Forensic physician and pathologist Markus Rothschild observes that the lungs of recently deceased people from large cities always show unnatural mutations: black dots or large discolored patches. The patients have died of various diseases, such as heart attacks or cancer. "People who live in big cities really do all have lungs in which we find these soot and coal dust deposits to a greater or lesser degree," Rothschild says. Doctors today know much more about the effects of air pollution. Christian Döring is a pediatrician in Cologne: "Metropolitan children have a much worse lung function than children from the countryside," he says. Because particles have such a relatively large surface area, they can transport pollutants into the heart and brain. So-called ultra-fine dust is particularly dangerous. An estimated seven million people die prematurely from air pollution every year. But industry and transport are not solely responsible for emissions. Wood-burning fireplaces, factory farming and the weather also play a role. Polluted air is spreading around the world: When coal-fired power plants are started up in Poland, particulate matter levels rise to the west of its borders. And, depending on weather patterns, even Delhi’s smog sometimes ends up here.