Young Girl From Haifa Suffering From Cancer Sues State for Allowing Air Pollution

Family claims pollution is the cause of her disease, and government has not acted to clean it up.

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Pollution in Haifa Bay.
Pollution in Haifa Bay.Credit: Baz Ratner
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Linoy Susan, a 7-year-old girl from Haifa, is suing the health and environmental protection ministries for negligence and physical damage. Susan was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, and claims in the suit, filed by her parents on her behalf, that her illness is related to the high levels of air pollution in the area near where she lives.

The family is suing for 1.150 million shekels ($300,000) in compensation from the state for the harm already caused to her, and an additional unspecified amount for future expenses due to her medical condition.

The suit, filed in the Haifa District Court on Wednesday morning, claims the government has been negligent, has not properly supervised and conducted the appropriate tests, and has not allocated suitable budgets to prevent the air pollution that the family claims caused the cancer, said their attorney, Hossam Maroun. The suit is backed up by medical opinions linking the disease to the pollution in the Haifa region.

Amir Susan, Linoy’s father, said he and his wife Christine decided to file the suit after the Health Ministry released a report dealing with cancer incidence in the Haifa area. “We took a step forward and were the first to file for all the suffering our daughter has endured, and we hope justice will see the light of day,” he said.

Linoy fell ill with leukemia two years ago, recovered and is now undergoing rehabilitation. Over the past two years she has undergone a bone marrow transplant, which necessitated thousands of tests to find a suitable donor, her father said.

“We are simple people, not like the ministries which have batteries of lawyers. We barely make ends meet, but we will not give up.”

The lawsuit claims Linoy is eligible for an allowance equivalent to 175 percent of a full disability allowance from the National Insurance Institute, and her medical situation is extremely serious: She is bedridden and requires intensive medical treatment. She needs hospitalization three days a week in the oncology unit at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa in order to undergo blood transfusions and other treatments, is unable to return to school or any other educational framework, and must remain at home in bed, claim her parents.

The suit was filed against the ministries and not the polluting factories, since it is impossible to prove exactly from which plant the pollutants came. This is a precedent-setting case said Maroun, as far as alleging a connection between the air pollution in Haifa and the specific disease Linoy is suffering from.

The Health Ministry created uproar a month ago when it released a report stating that there was a link between the air pollution in the Haifa Bay area and cancer cases – but later retracted the statement, saying it was based on only a single study and needed more work to back it up.

The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, has said there is insufficient data about the relationship between childhood cancer and air pollution.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said: “We will study the specifics of the suit when we receive it. In the battle to reduce air pollution the Environmental Protection Ministry has succeeded in the past six years in bringing about a 70-percent reduction in pollution in the Haifa Bay [region] and will continue to fight without compromise on behalf of the health of the residents.”

The Health Ministry said: “When we receive the suit, we will study its specifics and respond in court.”

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