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Did you think buses that run on cleaner fuel than older models cause less air pollution than their predecessors? If so, slow down a minute.

That's what Israeli drivers are being forced to do because of increasingly heavy traffic, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry. The problem is that frequent slowing down and speeding up causes more pollution, ultimately canceling out the improvement in air quality that occurred after the newer models were introduced in Israel, the director of the ministry's air quality department said at a conference in Tel Aviv this week.

The newer models do emit much less pollution than previous models when traveling at high speed, Avi Moshel said at the conference on vehicles run by alternative energy sources, which was sponsored by the Israel Institute of Energy and Environment.

"According to our measurements, for three-quarters of the year in Gush Etzion, the ozone level exceeds World Health Organization standards," Moshel said Tuesday. "In measurements we took a few years ago in Arad, there were deviations two-thirds of the time. If we went by Los Angeles standards, we would have to declare a warning almost every day in Arad of air pollution that endangers [public] health."

Moshel recommended instituting bus lanes as a way of reducing air pollution.

"If the appropriate infrastructure existed, including lanes exclusively for public transportation, the buses would travel under conditions in which they would emit less pollution," he said.

Environmental Protection Ministry statistics show that ozone and microparticle levels in some places are significantly higher than the accepted Israeli and international standards for air quality. The higher levels can damage the heart and the respiratory system and are potentially life-threatening. The pollution reaches urban areas as well as those that are not near major roads, since wind can disperse ozone.

Moshel dismissed Central Bureau of Statistics calculations indicating an overall improvement in air quality.

He said the statistics bureau bases its data on the number of vehicles on the road and how much pollution the manufacturers say they are supposed to emit, figures that Moshel said do not take into account heavy traffic.