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Air pollution levels in Tel Aviv remained high despite the conversion of the city's Reading Power Station from crude oil to natural gas and a decrease in exhaust emissions from public transport buses, according to a Tel Aviv Municipality report released Tuesday.

The air monitoring figures for 2006 appear in a report by the Environmental Quality Department. The exhaust emissions figures come from a recent announcement by the Dan Bus Company.

According to the report, in the past several years the incidence of excessive nitrous oxide levels, among the chief contributors to urban pollution, has dropped. The levels of nitrogen dioxide, however, considered the most deleterious to health, remained the same and continued to exceed permitted levels.

Measured levels of microparticles, which penetrate the respiratory system, remain high. In 2006, microparticle levels exceeded permitted levels on 16 days. According to the Environmental Quality Department, most of that figure can be attributed to dust storms. Discounting the dust storms, the levels of microparticle pollution were within permitted standards.

The severity of the air pollution in the city is illustrated when the levels of nanoparticles, less than 2.5 microns in diameter, are examined. These ultrafine particles represent the primary antagonist behind respiratory problems and heart damage as well as increased mortality as a result of short-term exposure. Last year the levels of nanoparticle pollution greatly exceeded the Israeli standard, even when accounting for the dust storms. Among the causes for high levels of these ultrafine particles are diesel engine exhaust emissions, which include known carcinogens.

High levels of ozone pollution, caused by vehicle emissions, were also reported in 2006. While the municipality's figures indicate no incidence of ozone emissions in excess of the Israeli standard, the Ministry of Environmental Protection reported several weeks ago that in the past year ozone levels in Tel Aviv exceeded the recommendations of the World Health Organization on 70 days in the past year.