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  • Writer's pictureDaria Danila

Outdoor activities in Romania affected as polluted air blankets Europe

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Smog above Brașov © Daniel Dîrjan

Recent reports show that the air quality across most of the European continent is compromised, with the Eastern countries being most seriously affected. The Groninger spoke to sources in Romania, where air pollution indicators are twice over what the WHO considers safe breathing air, to learn how these high levels of pollution affect their lives.

Brașov, a city cradled by the Romanian Carpathians, is a hub for outdoor activities and sports, from skiing and snowboarding, to hiking and paragliding, all within the city. But those who spend large amounts of time outdoors are starting to notice just how poor the air quality is, .

The polluting factor measured for in the study conducted by The Guardian, is PM2.5, an airborne particle which originates from the burning of fossil fuels. It can easily enter the bloodstream through the lungs, affecting all of the organs of the body. According to the investigation, 98% of Europeans are exposed to it.

‘Car City’

“I wonder if it’s healthy to bike to work every day,” says local tourist guide and hiker Robert Lazăr, in conversation with The Groninger. He noticed that in recent years, despite a drastic improvement to the local public transportation, which is well connected in most areas and more than half weaned off of fossil fuels, the number of cars has increased. “It’s like Car City here,” he says. Last year, Romania registered a 3,5% increase from the year before in the number of registered cars nation-wide.

The unpleasantness of the polluted air is also felt by Daniel Dîrjan, a local tandem paraglider who is often at the mercy of the weather and air conditions. He explains that cooler, polluted air can get trapped in the city by warm air above, causing a temperature inversion. “The polluted air is stuck in the city, it can’t rise,” says Dîrjan.

This phenomenon impacts paragliding itself, as the warm air cannot propel the glider well enough. “We can’t fly very high when this happens, because the air can’t move vertically as well,” says Dîrjan. He explains that usually, in Brașov, the masses of warm air above and cold air below meet at around 800 to 900 meters from the ground.

Paraglider above the smog in Brașov © Daniel Dîrjan

Luckily, the hikes Lazăr takes have been able to offer him some respite from the suffocating city air. He describes that sometimes, when hiking on the Tâmpa Mountain which shadows the Brașov Old Town early in the morning, you can see the pollution, more than feel it. “Thankfully you’re above the smog at the top [of Tâmpa Mountain], so you don’t get to inhale it then,” he said.

Lazăr does, however, fear for the long term consequences polluted air will have on his health, and that of people living in Brașov as well. “It’s as if we were all smokers. We’ll only start to feel the effects in the future.”

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