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

Published September 28, 2022

13 min read

Münster, GermanyFifteen minutes southeast of this university town, residential streets give way to farm fields, and the road winds and narrows. Next to a large wood, behind a tall chain-link fence, lie five old military bunkers—low swells in the landscape, their curved roofs covered with grass.

Dominik Lermen heads toward one and takes a bunch of keys out of his pocket. The clattering is swallowed by birds chirping and wind whooshing through the trees. Finally, he finds the right key, and I follow him through the plain green door—into the world’s best archive of how humans have been contaminated by chemical pollutants.

“In here,” Lermen says, “we’ve got about 400,000 samples from more than 17,000 people. Mostly whole blood, urine, and plasma.”

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