Dangers of Tyre Fire

Tyre Fire: Welsh Valley

The world’s longest burning tyre fire smouldered in a Welsh valley for fifteen years. Finally being put out in 2004.

The worst industrial fire by arsonists in 1989 was at a tyre dump in Heyope near Powys. This tyre fire spread to a total of 10 million tightly packed together tyres across ten miles. For a decade and a half!

It spewed toxic smoke that has a deleterious effect on people, animals and the environment for miles around. Leaving behind an oily substance packed with heavy metals and poisons that leached into the surrounding earth and groundwater.

Tyre Fire: Heyhope

In another case, the Heyhope fire is a distressing example of why you should never burn old tyres. And the scariest thing is that every country has similar mountains of dumped tyres waiting in a landfill.

Without doubt, the invention of the automobile has been a wondrous thing. Bringing communities and workplaces closer and made transportation faster and safer. But the problem of what to do with discarded tyres is a far less convenient side effect. Significantly it’s causing substantial environmental issues worldwide (long term respiratory effects, genetic defects and death).

Roughly twenty per cent of old tyres are “replacement fuel” in super hot furnaces while manufacturing cement. This undeniably emits a dark, thick smoke filled with ultra-fine particles into the air that can settle deep in the lungs. The particles contain cyanide, carbon monoxide, butadiene, benzene and styrene (all recognised human carcinogens). 

Environmental Footprint

While cement companies argue burning tyres as fuel reduces their environmental footprint by cutting down on fossil fuel usage. The most compelling evidence is that environmentalists claim it results in sulphur dioxide emissions by a factor of 10. Increasing dust particles by five hundred per cent. There is also some question that burning chlorinated elements in tyres releases further carcinogenic dioxins into the surrounding air.

Babies, children, the elderly and the immune-suppressed are especially susceptible to the toxic pollutants burning tyres emits. This includes increased incidences of life-threatening asthma and heart disease. Contamination can be spread from breast milk to the baby.

Fine particles exuded from burning tyres has been found to cause excess pediatric mortality, hospitalisations and cancer.

Tyres are designed for indestructibility on the road – and that’s the very root of the issue. Forget about lasting a few years pounding tarmac: your average tyre mountain contains a mix of rubber, carbon black and steel that won’t biodegrade for thousands of years.

Health Concerns

That leads to further health concerns include the slow breakdown of toxic additives used to make tyres tough.


  • Zinc oxide: which can cause lung inflammation, cancer and fetal damage)
  • Chromium: skin ulcerations.
  • Lead: developmental delays, abdominal pain, neurological changes, irritability and death.
  • Copper: psychological damage and Alzheimer’s.
  • Cadmium: respiratory problems, renal failure and cancer.
  • Sulphur dioxide: inhalation causes long term respiratory effects, genetic defects and death.

Like Britain, many countries struggle with what to do with their rubber tyre mountains. Australia has to deal with a vast twenty-five million of them thrown out every year – most illegally dumped, exported (so we shuffle the problem out of sight and on to a third-world country) or stockpiled.

It’s time to stop burning and stockpiling tyres and focussing on ecologically and human-friendly ways to deal with our mess.

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