Czech and German authorities announce joint investigation into mysterious noxious fumes


The Czech Ministry of the environment is launching a joint investigation with German authorities following countless complaints of noxious smells alleged to be seeping across the border into Germany. Inhabitants in the state of Saxony are pointing the finger squarely at the numerous factories which dot the landscape of the north-west Czech Republic.

Photo: Juan de Vojníkov, CC BY-SA 3.0Photo: Juan de Vojníkov, CC BY-SA 3.0 Inhabitants on the German side of the Krušné Hory region – or Ore Mountains in English – bordering Saxony and the Czech Republic have been voicing concerns for some time about a mysterious smell coming from over the border. This “Czech air” as local Germans are calling it, previously led to petitions to the European Parliament, but to no avail. They say that the mysterious, sickly, plastic-like odour is causing inhabitants to suffer from coughs, nausea and other ailments. They also describe seeing an occasional yellow mist accompanying the smell.

Torsten Schilling, a local reporter on the German side of the border, described the impact of the noxious odour:

“There are people who are genuinely made ill by this ‘Czech air’. Most often they suffer from headaches, diarrhoea, and nosebleeds. There are others who are not impacted at all. But children are particularly sensitive to it.”

Despite a preponderance of industrial factories in the region, the Czech authorities initially denied any responsibility, saying that their measurements indicated that Czech emissions were falling within established limits. But locals in German communities such as the town of Olbernhau were undaunted and petitioned Saxony’s environment minister Thomas Schmidt. Last week, Schmidt met with communities in the affected area. This week, the Saxon minister met with Czech Environment Minister Richard Brabec. The pair agreed to increase co-operation between the countries, including faster reporting of detected incidences of pollution. Speaking to the press, Richard Brabec acknowledged the problem was getting worse:

Richard Brabec, photo: Filip JandourekRichard Brabec, photo: Filip Jandourek “We have a new kind of situation here whereby the reported incidences of fumes are being reported deeper and deeper within Germany.”

Thomas Schmidt said he had assurances from the Czech side of speedier investigations:

“When our side discovers an incidence of pollution, my colleague has promised me, that both sides will work together in tracking down and eliminating the source of these fumes.”

The Czech Environmental Inspectorate (CEI), the body charged with enforcement of environmental regulations, has stated that the most recent reported incidence of noxious smells came last Saturday. Increased cooperation between the two sides is designed to reduce a hitherto decisive time lag in terms of tracking down source of the fumes.

But Petr Dvořák of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute insists that local weather conditions mean that winds tend to travel from the German Ore Mountains into Czech territory, not the other way around. But Czechs too have reported strange noxious odours along the notoriously polluted north-western border. So far, the mystery remains unsolved.