Urban Air Pollution No Worse in Israel Than in Europe, Ministry Says

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Stuck in traffic, in Tel Aviv's Jabotinsky Street. Credit: Nir Keidar

The high level of air pollution in Israeli cities is caused mainly by motor vehicles, but the air quality isn’t any worse than in large cities in Europe and Canada, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Ministry.

Air pollution in Israel has decreased in recent years, according to the report for 2014, the first of its kind in Israel.

In some metropolitan areas there are especially high concentrations of two pollutants produced by fuel combustion in both transportation and industry — volatile organic compounds and nitrogen dioxide in city centers emitted by vehicles.

These pollutants cause breathing problems and higher disease rates — even death.

Particularly bad pollution has afflicted Jerusalem’s Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood and the city center, as well as the area around Tel Aviv’s old central bus station. Last year 87 excessive nitrogen oxide rates were monitored around the bus station and 116 excessive nitrogen dioxide rates.

Pollution exceeding the permitted amount was also found on Haifa’s Ha’atzmaut Road, which runs near the port area.

But pollution concentrations have decreased. The sulfur dioxide concentration in Ashdod has fallen nearly 60 percent in the past decade, while the nitrogen dioxide concentration in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv has fallen by a quarter.

The main reasons are better fuels and harsher standards for emissions by both vehicles and factories. Despite the improvement, in 2014 the concentration of toxic substances at all 14 monitoring points exceeded the permitted level, the ministry said.

The researchers compared pollution concentrations in large Israeli cities with European and Canadian cities including Lisbon, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Warsaw, London, Montreal and Toronto.

It turned out the air quality in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa is similar to that in the foreign cities, but for certain pollutants Haifa’s air is better than in most of the other cities.

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