At the Fringe: Stories from Davos (8) – The Breath-Healing City

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You don’t have to be at the top of a hill to experience Davos’ perfect autumn scenario. Landscapes with the color changing leaves, the red fruits, the sound of the birds, all this can make you feel like you are in paradise. But how about its air? How healthy do you feel now that you’re here?

According to city’s signboards, the German Doctor Alexander Spengler discovered that this special high mountain climate has a healing effect on lungs illnesses. This lead to the opening of a health resort for tuberculosis affected people in the middle of the 19th century.

“In the past, Davos had a long tradition of good air quality compared to the bad air quality in industrialized and urban cities that burned a lot of coal”, says Richard Ballaman, head of the Air Quality Management Section at the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).

According to the city of Davos, this belief has attracted tourists to the city for some 150 years. They come for holidays seeking to breath fresh air for a while or to get treated in one of the local clinics specialized in these matters, says Ballaman.

Davos' air quality has attracted tourists to the city for some 150 years.

Aranzazu Ballesteros

Davos' air quality has attracted tourists to the city for some 150 years.

One of these clinics is Hochgebirgsklinik Davos (Alpine Clinic Davos), a medical center founded in 1901. It specializes in allergies asthma, dermatology, and pneumonology, both in children and adults.

Doctor Johan Christian Leder, Chief Medical Officer, says Davos’ reputation is well-earned. According to him, the air in the small city is less polluted, does not have house dust mites and has a low pollen concentration. This reduces the amount of allergies, hay fever and asthma. In addition, Davos is located at 1560 meters above sea level, which, along with the dryness of its air, has a healing effect on patients with lung illnesses.

“Personally, I have a very positive experience with the Davos air. For many patients you can see an immediate improvement, even before they get any medication”, Leder states.

Regula, a Zürich native, says she likes breathing the air in Davos better than at home. “It is a very good air, specially when you are allergic to dust, because you don’t have these little animals,” she explains.

Andres from San Carlo agrees. “I feel better because the climate is better and drier here than in my city.”

Monica from Austria says that Davos has “super air”. She is a travel guide, so she has not been in Davos for a long time, however, she says the air in this town is very different from other places she has been to: “It feels better than anywhere else – except for places with sea and salt.”

On the other hand, people that have been living in Davos for a longer time appear to think differently. Mrs. Rymann, a 69 year old woman who grew up in Davos, agrees that the air is fine and the sky is clear, making it possible for you to see the stars at night. Nevertheless, she has noticed that the town has changed: “During high season there are so many cars it smells bad and they have built so many houses that need heat – you can see a little bit of smog during the winter.”

An Italian immigrant who has been living in Davos for the last 40 years agrees. He states that Davos is now dirty because of all the people that come here in winter.

Regardless of what the natives and tourists believe, Richard Ballman confirms that the air in Davos still has good quality, despite the growth the city has experienced.

“Lately there was a big development of winter sports and the resulting traffic generates additional emissions of pollutants. However, the situation of air quality has not deteriorated and the improvement of vehicles and heating systems allowed to improve the air quality during the last decades. You can see that in the reports of the Agency of Nature and Environment Grisons (ANU) and of the National Air Pollution Monitoring Network (NABEL)”, Ballman states.

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