Haifa Isn’t the Most Polluted City in Israel After All, Says Environment Ministry

'There are urban areas, particularly those near main roads, where pollution is high, higher than in Haifa,' claims ministry's director general.

Baz Ratner

Air pollution in Haifa is no worse than in other urban areas in Israel, Environmental Protection Ministry director general David Leffler said yesterday, adding that his ministry will be working with the Health Ministry to establish a task force to reduce pollution in the bayside city.

The ministry’s handling of Haifa’s pollution problem has come under fire recently from environmental activists in the city.

Leffler was speaking to reporters in Haifa as part of a conference of the World Health Organization’s Europe and Central Asian division, of which Israel is a member, on the connection between pollution and health.

“There are urban areas, particularly those near main roads, where pollution is high, higher than in Haifa,” Leffler said. He added that half the pollution in Israel was caused by vehicles and the rest came from industry and power stations.

Six months ago the Environmental Protection Ministry said that Haifa was “in first place in air pollution emission,” even when taking into consideration vehicle pollution in other cities.

The ministry said the earlier statement did not contradict Leffler’s comments yesterday, which he said related to the severity of pollution, based on the fact that exposure to vehicle pollution is more immediate and closer than many other sources of air pollution.

Attention has been focused on air pollution in Haifa in recent weeks following a Health Ministry report that there is a causal relationship between air pollution and cancer among Haifa children. The report’s author, Itamar Grotto, said the evaluation was based on just one study and that more research was needed.

WHO’s regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said there isn’t enough data about the relationship between childhood cancer and air pollution.