a man in a blue protective apron and yellow boots holding a small case surrounded by cryotanks

A German bunker full of blood and urine has the best record of how chemicals contaminate us

Some 400,000 specimens from German citizens, collected over four decades and stored in an old military bunker, trace the rise—and sometimes the fall—of chemical pollutants in an industrial country.

At the German Environmental Specimen Bank, Dominik Lermen stands among cryo-storage tanks that hold thousands of vials of blood and urine. A scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Lerman leads the team that collects samples every year from students and stores them here on behalf of the German Environment Agency.

Read This Next

Game birds are surprisingly beautiful—and endangered
This stunning national park is set in a dormant volcano
The legend of the ‘demon cat’ that roams the U.S. Capitol

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet