It’s getting hotter in Berlin. Not for the first time and certainly not for the last time this year. Children in particular suffer from this. Your health is increasingly at risk due to the harsh summers in this country. The 2020 generation is expected to be 6.8 times more likely to experience heat waves in their lifetime than those born in 1960. So they are exposed to periods of more than three days with temperatures in excess of 30 degrees significantly more often. Berlin is expecting such a wave again this week.
Familiar images can then be viewed at the Wannsee lido, where people line up at the entrance. Familiar photos are also on the Müggelsee lido, where there is hardly any free space in the water near the shore. Berliners flee to the countryside in search of refreshment. It is very likely that they fell into the trap.
“It seems paradoxical,” says pediatrician Thomas Loeb-Corzelius. Then he talked about ozone, the dangers of greenhouse gases and what it can do to a growing organism. Because Lob-Corzilius works for the Pediatric Allergy and Environmental Medicine Association (GPAU). He has worked extensively on the health consequences of increasing ozone levels in the air we breathe, and increasing O₃, the radical component of oxygen. Abundance, as prevails on hot days in the outskirts of Berlin.
The numbers indicate that a lot of green doesn’t automatically mean a lot of fresh air. According to the Federal Environment Agency, the average value of ozone in 2020 was 60 micrograms per cubic meter in rural areas, but it was significantly lower in cities at 49 micrograms. Temperatures are not responsible for this. “It’s not the heat itself that releases O₃, it’s the sun’s rays, UVA and UVB rays,” Lob-Corzilius explains.
If light collides with nitrogen dioxide, NO₂, near Earth, a chemical reaction occurs. “In the process, NO₂ splits into NO and an O root. This quickly combines with O₂, that is, oxygen, and becomes O₃, ozone. NO₂ is produced by fossil fuels, and road traffic is the main resource.
In the suburbs, the ozone level rises in the afternoon
Finally, thermal heat transports the ozone layer from the hot island of Berlin to the outskirts of the city. There concentration increases in the afternoon and reaches its highest level in the evening. Meanwhile, the green lungs of the city stop breathing. Although plants can absorb ozone, extreme temperatures prevent them from doing so. “They close the pores of their leaves to save water,” Lob-Corzilius explains.
Then, energy saving is also a suitable strategy for people to deal with ozone. For children, this means: “Swimming is not a problem.” The doctor also says that moderate exercise is harmless, but recommends that it be facilitated in general. “Babies who walk around intensely have the same respiratory rate as a jogger,” says Lob-Corzilius. As a result, they inhale more ozone. It irritates the airways and causes micro-inflammation in the lungs.
“Oxidative stress” is what the Osnabrück doctor calls it: “It leads to symptoms we know from asthma.” In fact, O₃ can exacerbate asthma, regardless of the teen’s age. “This has now been shown by a number of studies around the world,” says Lob-Corzilius. If children and adolescents are exposed to high concentrations over a long period of time, lung function and development may be affected. “Chronic cases are possible with long-term exposure, even if exposure is less than 120 micrograms per cubic meter.”
This is the so-called target value of ozone in the European Union. 120 mcg should not be exceeded more than 25 times in a calendar year. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this value is still very high. It therefore recommended in September 2021 that the threshold for harmless concentration be lowered to 100 mcg. The World Health Organization has relied on many international studies.
In Berlin, there are 15 measuring stations that record air pollution with pollutants. The Federal Environment Agency makes data accessible via an application. “This gives everyone the opportunity to learn about the current situation and act accordingly,” says Lob-Corzilius. The values can also be searched on the Internet, for example at www.luft.jetzt/Berlin.de.
Fine dust from wildfires is making you sick
Ozone is not the only source of danger. The 15 stations also measure particle concentration. “It’s a year-round problem,” says Lob-Corzilius. However, it can intensify in summer, also as a result of climate change – through wildfires. The generation of 2000 will also be affected more severely than it was in 1960, twice as often as predicted.
This trend can already be felt in Berlin. Recently, three large forests have burned in the surrounding area, in the counties of Teltow-Fläming and Potsdam-Mittelmark. Nowhere else is the forest ablaze as in Brandenburg, several hundred times a year. Fire time is easy on dry ground. The wind also transports its remains to Berlin, depending, of course, on the flow of air. A study conducted by the Senate’s Department of Environment a few years ago showed that two-thirds of the particles in the capital come from other areas. East winds, for example, bring in fumes from Polish coal-fired power plants.
On the other hand, a study from the United States indicates that particulates emitted from wildfires increase the risk of ending up in the emergency room as a patient with cardiovascular problems or breathing difficulties. It increases by up to 25 percent with age and depending on symptoms. According to scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even those who are exposed to smoke for only a few days can develop bronchitis or suffer a heart attack or stroke.
Another health risk is climate change. Due to higher temperatures, pollen starts earlier and ends later. “Depending on the region, we now have pollen in Germany from January to November, and there is a risk of pollen flying all year round,” says Lob-Corzilius. Pollen contains certain proteins that the human immune system recognizes as foreign and fights them. “After a period of sensitivity, this can lead to an allergic reaction.”
The commercial health insurance company KKH evaluated patient data it collected between 2010 and 2020. One result: In Berlin, allergic rhinitis caused by pollen increased by 11.6 percent. Thus the city was well above the average increase of 8.7 percent across all federal states. More and more children are affected.
One in three people will develop an allergy in their lifetime, nearly 90 percent due to pollen. They have become more aggressive, and this is also due to the fact that they often pass fine dust on their surface. fine dust removes proteins from pollen, forming a fine, microscopic mixture that has an explosive effect; Because this can penetrate deeper into the small bronchi, the human immune system is more sensitive.
This is bad news for the hot days ahead. But there is also a message for the upcoming fall and winter. The gas crisis and inflation have caused many people in this country to search for alternative ways to heat their homes. The demand for coal and firewood is increasing. If it is burned, the pollution from fine dust increases, and the burden on the weakest – children, increases.