March 25, 2023

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A Romanian custom has turned into a huge health hazard. The action is punishable by five years in prison

An old Romanian custom, Sumedru’s Fire, has turned into a tire burning contest in recent years.

In the villages, especially in Muntenia, people collect hundreds of tires from time to time, which they burn on the eve of St. Dumitru, without thinking about the suffocating smoke they will inhale.

Although burning waste is a crime punishable by imprisonment, the authorities turned a blind eye to Sumedru’s Fire

As of this year, burning waste is considered a crime and is punishable by up to five years in prison. However, the authorities turned a blind eye last night.

In Zărnești, Brașov county, on a hill, the locals lit over a ton of tires in the name of tradition. High piles full of tires from cars also burned in Argeș and Dâmbovița.

Local: “Every year we collect a bunch of people, around 200-300-400 tires. And we’ve never had a problem with the police or the fire department coming, no!”

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the air pollution

Preparations for these fires are made many days in advance. Young people collect stacks of tires and then raise structures to attach them to so that the fire is as intense as possible.

Local: “-It’s nice to be big, to be seen by as many as possible to attract attention.”
Reporter: “-Aren’t you afraid of attracting the attention of the authorities?”
Local: “-It is already known, in the area it is known that on October 25 there is a fire, there is no intervention.”

What substances toxic to humans are released by burning tires

According to studies, one ton of burned tires – that is, about 200 pieces – releases sulfur and nitrogen oxides, dioxins, furan, heavy metals and hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. A total of 450 kilograms of toxic substances, some carcinogenic, and 270 kilograms of black smoke – soot reach the air.

Dioxins can spread up to 160 kilometers away from where tires are burned and persist in the atmosphere for decades. These highly toxic chemical compounds affect plants, animals and humans.

Ștefan Voinea, Romanian Health Observatory: “The effects happen years later: they reduce life expectancy, they lead to asthma, they increase the rate of all kinds of other diseases, but they don’t happen then! You’re burning tires, but you, as an individual, don’t see how much harm you’re doing. If they realized what health risks they were putting themselves at, what risks they were putting the community at, they wouldn’t do it again.”

Since spring, arson of this kind has been a crime, and punishments can go up to five years in prison.

In Brașov, Argeș and Dâmbovița, where tons of tires were burned, no authority found the commission of any criminal act.

Aurelian Păduraru, General Commissioner of the National Environmental Guard: “We have no reports of last night’s arsons. We will resume the notifications and instructions with the administrative territorial units and we will make them aware of the rigors of the law even on them because they do not properly organize these activities.”

What is, in fact, the tradition on the eve of St. Demetrius

According to tradition, on the eve of St. Demetrius, the peasants light fires on the hills to ward off evil spirits. Ethnologists say that the mountains of tires have nothing to do with the custom, which can be kept without breaking the law.

Alina Mandai, Museum of Ethnography Brașov: “In the old days, people used household scraps, sticks, dry leaves, and it didn’t need to be a very big fire.”

In several localities, the town halls organized Sumedru’s fire, taking care to respect the environmental protection rules.

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