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When I lived in Germany (1998-2000 near Frankfurt) I noticed that there was good reason for the German obsession with regular car washes: rain makes ones car dirty there. In my region of America rain actually does a pretty good job of washing the car for you. I am pretty sure this difference in Germany must be a consequence of Diesel use. I was surprised at the dirt since people seemed to assume that the German environmental standards were much more strict than those in America (I was similarly surprised when Dioxins in pork and BSE in beef caused panic through Europe while I was there)

I can attest as a long-time resident of Berlin that the air quality here sucks. My nasal passages are constantly stuffed up here and I am constantly forced to blow them out. This is not the case when I am in the States. In fact, when I go to visit the U.S., my nasal passages usually clear up within a week.

I should point out that in the comment above "my region of America" refers to the northeast, a region with a population density comparable to that of Europe.

6 years ago I visited a friend in England. While we did a rest at a petrol station I was wondering why the prices for diesel and petrol were almost the same. My friend told me the British government had increased the price for diesel recently, because there was no need for a difference. Since then I waited for the German government to raise the price for Diesel, too. Now the time has come.

Not scientific, but I'll wager that far more particulate matter was released into the atmosphere over central Europe in the 1970s and 1980s than today. Commies loved heavy smokestack industries, and they were totally unconcerned with air pollution. Coal-fired power plants? The soot poured directly into the air, unscrubbed and unfiltered. Steel plants? Smoke went right up the chimneys. Autos and trucks were absolutely filthy machines, emitting enormous quantities of noxious smoke.

I think you're right. The Greens are fishing for an issue they can use to misdirect people's attention. Fischer and his cronies have been enormous FAILURES, no matter how you measure it. I doubt they can get any more traction based on hating America, so this seems like a good solution for them.


Save your self the expense,just pull the pin and hold on. You won't have to rage anymore, and it will save everyone the expense of listening to you


I'll wager that far more particulate matter was released into the atmosphere over central Europe in the 1970s and 1980s than today.

I think the same would hold true for the U.S.

I can just imagine what our urban-dwelling, industrial revolution era ancestors would say to our complaints of current day air quality. Something like, "in my day you had to chew the air before drawing a breath, ya panzy".

Here (in German) is a nice overview over PM10 concentrations in the years 2000-2003 in Germany, including some short explanations of the causes.

This is a map of daily averages. Note however, that they vary greatly from day to day, mostly due to weather conditions as the above document points out.

American standards have a similar annual mean (50 in the US as opposed to 40 µg/m^3 in the EU). According to the above document, the highest measured annual mean in Germany in the years 2000 to 2003 was 51 µg/m^3. In 2000 to 2002, about 3% of the annual measurements obtained were above the now effective EU annual mean. In 2003, the percentage rose to 7%.

As you might have noticed, in the US the 24 hour average of 150 µg/m^3 may only be exceeded once per year. In Germany, there are a few cities where 24hour-averages even beyond 200 µg/m3 were measured.

The health effects in general are serious according to the first link in the original post (EU Position Paper). I did not really get past the first few pages, but here is what it said: "New analyses have shown death being advanced by at least a few months on population average, at current PM concentrations in Europe, for causes such as cardiovascular and lung disease." [And some more causes/problems linked to PM.] On the other hand, there does not really seem to be a threshold below which PM becomes harmless for everyone.

What does a few, say 3, months less life expectation mean? I dunno. However, assuming an average life expectancy of 78.5 years, 8.45 births / 1000 people / year, which comes out to approx. 700,000 babies born in Germany per year, killing about 2200 infants each year would reduce the life expectancy by 3 months. (I assume if you wait until they turn about 40 years, you would have to kill twice as many per year.)

A different way to look at this is to say, that if PM only really causes problems for 10% of the population, that means 10% of the population would die 10*a few months, say 30 months, earlier.

(Okay, the math might be flawed, and I am oversimplifying.)

Now, the latter number is not nearly as dramatic, but I think there would be quite a "media
madness" if Germans slaughtered 2200 babies per year. Admittedly, the EU goal for 2010 is to cut down to half the annual mean (20 µg/m^3), so maybe we're just killing 1000 additional babies.

It's fun to play with the numbers but you really can't propose the fungiablity of 2200 babies vs 4400 40-year olds.

In the first place, the reduction in life expectancy is an estimate. If you dissect the stats you would find that certain populations are more vulnerable (probably babies, old people and those with compromised lung function). And people by in large don't just die because they are having a bad air day. They live with asthma and other breathing problems, get married, have babies (or not, in Germany's case) and lead more or less normal lives with sub-par health, develop emphysema, pneumonia or what ever and perhaps die of that, mostly late in life. This is important because the alarmists like to pose the statistics the way you are to make it sound more like an emergency, a crisis, when it needs to be treated like other long term environmental health risks. It reminds me of what certain smear campaigns in the States (X wants to cut your Social Security! X wants your children to go hungry! Your grandmother will be forced to eat cat food!)

It is true, however, that breathing crap causes problems with the respiratory system and diesel exhaust is very dirty. It is a real quality of life issue.

As to the question of why the hysteria- stuff like this, especially from the Greens tends to take on a trendy aspect and certainly the media (and not just in Germany) have a pack mentality about headline stories.

Wasn't all of this supposed to be taken care of with the Kyoto protocol?

Simple solution: Germans, exhale only.

I'm not surprised by the timing, its Spring. Pollen is a significant particulate "pollutant".

Enjoy the weather!

You might want to take a look at what the French managed to do with the Renaults and Peugeots in the last few years, with those afterburning filters. Deutschland's response? Bar them from the market on VERY specious grounds.

I expect that diesel prices (that is, taxes) will be raised and the campaign has already been planned. No big deal, I have a Firmenwagen.

If Germany were really interested in improving clean air, they would simply just outlaw smoking in public places and offices. The health benefits would be immediate and significant. Currently, we can only look forward to 50% of restaraunt seating smoke-free by 2008. Such progress!

This common-sense approach in banning smoking (creating real benefits) flys direcly in the face of SPD/Green thinking: it would hault the ability for the Government to increase in size, expand legislation, make more themselves important, blame American, etc, etc.

When I go to the Pub in Münich, I'm not so much concerned about small-particles as the cloud of cancerous nicotine floating in the air. Often, it is so bad that I have to leave...

Here is the link to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air site.


Madrid 1982. The air was so bad I had to go back to the hotel every afternoon to change clothes. After a week, I was so sick they weren't going to let me get on the plane to come home. I had to threaten to die in the airport. And I damn near did.

The maps and standards given above by Daniel are for PM10. It was likely PM 2.5 from diesel which dirtied my car every time it rained in Germany. Is there a corresponding chart of typical levels for fine particles? (I note that my region of america had zero days above US standards for PM so my experience may not be typical for the country as a whole).
As for the actual health risk, it is certainly worse than any risk from nuclear power (even if we had a chernobl accident every year--the number expected to die from Chernobl over 30 years is what you get in a year from ordinary fossil fuel burning power plants).

Talking about media madness: Try searching the US news (using Google) for the keyword Sudan (300000 dead) and Schiavo (1 dead). Compare the number of results (Sudan: 9800 hits, Schiavo: 67000 hits). Now that's mad.

Note from David: Oh God - unwichtig ist back!
Unwichtig, when will you ever understand: we don't compare German media to US media. We know, there's media madness over there, as there is media madness in the UK, in Russia, in Italy, in Japan, etc....etc...etc...
Our benchmark for judging the German media is sound journalism. Period.

Let's see...about 5,200,000 million Germans unemployed (heard the figure went up even more today), so let's introduce (from the Ger. gov't perspective) more controls which will cost LOTS of money and possibly jobs and future investment.

Does one think the Schroeder administration would shut down the Ruhr-Gebiet/Ruhr area to comply with Kyoto? Never, else, add a few more thousands of unemployed. I guess the German gov't. will buy "clean air credits" from Russia so it can continue to let the Ruhrpott puff its smoke.

Perhaps someone can confirm this, but with the end of the UdSSR/CCCP/USSR, some of their inefficient factories which (ask any Ossi/East German) polluted the hell out of the DDR/East Germany and Soviet Russia are now closed, but the baseline or timeframe or whatever for the Kyoto Treaty includes them; hence, Russia can sell the clean air credits to Germany or to whomever.

Perhaps someone can confirm/refute that.


That's a little like saying: "When you use the Internet Explorer to read www.darwinawards.com, you'll have a lot of fun."

Yeah, you don't compare browsers, but you'll have just as much fun with the darwin awards using Firefox or Opera. So why mention the browser type at all? Unless you want to mislead your readers?

I don't even understand that analogy Unwichtig?

The point was that the blog is here to highlight issues in the German media

Your saying "but look at FOX" every 10 minutes is inane

There are already BLOGS dedicated to looking at and disecting FOX and the New York Times and lots of other media

If you defence of German media bias is that there is other biased media in the world - even in the US of A - well sheee-it boy - you could save some time since such a point is obvious, well documented and irrelevant to the questions at hand

@ Quid:
Yes, playing with numbers is fun. :) The baby-number really was playful. The 10% of the people die 30 months earlier is more like the real effect of pollution, I dare say. I didn't want to sound alarming and suggest that suddenly a lot of people will die (The Breath of Death ;). I just wanted to give an idea for a few months less life expectancy.

And afaik Kyoto is concerned with the Greenhouse effect. So, the answer is no.

@ James:
Yes, banning public smoking would be great :) I totally agree to that and I suspect the health effects for the general public would be great. On the other hand, it is always sad when comments in this forum transition from sound to polemic.

@Poque Mahone

Let me give you simpler example: If you write "on average, men in Berlin have a lower life expectancy than women", then this is certainly true. But what does it say about Berlin? Nothing. It's non-information.

Because it's the same in New York, or in Paris, or in London. I don't care if other people have already pointed out that fact for New York in particular, or for Paris.

@ Daniel: I actually thought that you were making a very subtle point about how statisics can be made to sound alarming by using bogus comparisons (my favorite is always 'x would fill 3 football fields;' you could have really had fun talking about how many football fields of dead babies...oh, never mind). But I made a judgment call to just tease out that line a bit more obviously, on the off chance that there may be a reader or two who didn't quite catch your nuance ;]
Also, I guess I was being too subtle: I knew that about the Kyoto protocol. Germans are really getting screwed: they are bound to pay through the nose (so to speak) for that useless treaty AND they can't breathe their own air.

Anyone know the annual number of abortions in Germamy?

I have a feeling it exceeds the caculated losses due to air pollution.

Besides if old people are dying as a results of air pollution, this will surely help the social welfare state in meeting it "obligations" of "social justice" for all in the future.

Unwitchtig - I really don't need any simpler example - but thanks ;)

For some reason you think you can just say "but its the same in the US" in terms of media bias and unflattering caricatures of Germany in the US media and expect anyone here to just accept such nonsense

Most of the posters here have vast experience with both US and Euro media - my experience is from the UK as I freely admit - and we KNOW there is no such similarity

Spiegal and Stern compared to Time and Newsweek - there is simply no comparison

The first two make it a staple to feed their readership with healthy doses of red-meat America bashing - one assumes because it sells

The latter two make no such efforts

And I'm no fan of the US msm like Time and Newsweek - but reading both ( mostly Newsweek ) I know nothing like the examples posted here from Stern ever appear

This is not non-information - this is the whole point of the blog

@Poque Mahone

Scroll to the top and read again what this thread is about: Media Madness about Feinstaub. This isn't exactly "red-meat America bashing", is it? David did not mention anti-Americanism, I didn't, but you did.

David tricked you into writing a statement about anti-American media in Germany - in a thread that has nothing to say about anti-American media in Germany. That's what I was trying to explain earlier with my simple example.

Unwichtig: "David tricked you into writing a statement about anti-American media in Germany - in a thread that has nothing to say about anti-American media in Germany. That's what I was trying to explain earlier with my simple example."

I connect it in this way: Europe is constantly wailing that the US is going to destroy the world with our greenhouse gas emissions. But we're not the ones choking on our air, you see...

In my area (North Florida) the most dangerous pollutant in the air is pollen.



I can understand that after years during which the pseudo-"greens" cried "Foul !" over so many things -- like the clean, secure, efficient and cheap nuclear energy which they kinda outlawed here, or the genetically improved crops, which were forced out of the market in Germany -- ... that you would smell another greenish "hype" in the particle discussion. Like the man who always screams "Fire !" day in and day out, you ignore the "greens" who screamed about everything without apparent cause.

But we better listen this time, as the threat posed by particulate matters is very real, and its carcinogenic consequences are abundantly proven in dozens of scientific studies.

Remember as well that the chief emitter of nanometer-sized particles, the diesel cars, were subsidized by artificially cheapened diesel ( mineral oil tax on diesel, as well as added-value tax, are lower percentagewise than on gasoline ! ) and propagated by the very same "greens" and MSM for years ... while they ignored the - then already known ! - problematic of the diesel soot.

They pushed diesel cars with their prime argument: The reduction of CO2, the Kyoto Protocol, Global Warming etc. ... diesel cars used to be the Greens and MSM's darlings, and continue to be so until today ( compare the latest issue of "auto, motor und sport", in which an "expert" demands a tax cut for diesel cars because they helped fulfill -- yes, the KYOTO PROTOCOL ! )

It's not a "media hype" around the particle issue, to the contrary: The media, like the red-green government ( Gerhard Schroeder is called the "Autokanzler" ( automobile chancellor ) and "Genosse der Bosse" ( buddy of the bosses ) for a reason ... German protectionism against US- and Japanese/Korean car manufacturers should ring a bell there ... exercised thru artificial pushing of the diesel, in which German car-makers had a technological advantage, thru state subsidies and tax policies ), have always tried to banalize the issue in the past decade - and now, as the EU emission laws kick in, they can't ignore the topic any more, nor try to talk their way around it ... now it's on the political agenda, and there to stay until it's solved, hopefully, that is.

PS: The states of New York and California got emission laws that render the registration of new diesel cars de facto impossible - and rightfully so.

A new, similarly tough car emissions law is in the works, to be prescribed federally - legally binding as a minimum requirement for all states of the USA. I dunno when it will come, but it's said to become law in the next couple years ...

I applaud the USA for implementing such restrictive measures to protect their people ... in Germany, it's "Fuck the health of the people -- buy Diesel for the Kyoto Protocol's sake !"

Global Warming ( for which there is NO clear scientific evidence whatsoever ... and of which the Kyoto lunatics say that it could possibly be reduced by 0,1 degrees Celsius by 2100 if we all played by the rules of Kyoto - wow ! 0,1 degrees in the year of 2100 ! ) is considered more important in Germany than the actual, present, proven and all too real danger which particulate matter poses to the health of men, here and now.

"Amerika, du hast es besser ..." - das wußte schon jemand größeres vor mir. Ich kann ihm wieder mal nur beipflichten.

God bless ...

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