Health Minister Yaakov Litzman on Tuesday morning 23 Shevat spoke with Kol Chai Radio about recent reports pertaining to alarming air pollution in Haifa and the possible medical consequences of the pollution from the city’s chemical plants.
Litzman was referring to the results of a study that were released this week, a report that paints a worrisome picture about areas in Haifa including Kiryat Chaim, Kiryat Bialik and the southeastern area of Kiryat Tivon. The Channel 2 News report quoting the study stated the findings are not yet conclusive, yet there is sufficient evidence pointing to a connection to the pollution caused from the city’s chemical plants and the fact babies in these areas are born with smaller heads and their birth weight is 20%-30% less than elsewhere. In addition, there have already been studies documenting the cancer rate in areas of the city being five times higher the national average.
Litzman told radio host Mordechai Lavi since the report was released earlier in the week he has already met with Minister of Environmental Affairs (Kulanu) Avi Gabbai accompanied by the professionals from his ministry in an effort to begin probing the report and the consequences of the data released. He emphasized “this is the beginning of the report and by far not a conclusive report”. Litzman stated he feels that prior to releasing the report to the general public the researchers should have presented it to his and other relevant offices to study and learn, admitting the some of the data released comes as news to him. He also feels the scientific community has not yet had opportunity to study the report in-depth and this too is significant.
The minister added “I will surprise you by telling you the situation in Haifa has improved in recent years”, adding the report is from 2012. (This contradicts other statements that the report is new, and not from 2012). The minister added that he and Gabbai have already made two joint visits to Haifa and that they both remain committed to following the situation and taking the necessary steps if and when the situation demands.
He explains the professionals in his office will of course study the data, adding there is much to learn including who funded the research and who is behind the report. While not minimizing the findings, Litzman added it is possible that there are persons with a specific interest behind the research and the release of the report – questioning why the research was leaked to the media before it was presented to his office.
During the interview Litzman mentioned pollution in other areas, citing the pollution in Jerusalem is worst at Kikar Shabbos because there are buses traveling in three directions. He added pollution was also bad in the Shmuel HaNavi area. However, he pointed out that he is unaware of an increase in maladies in the Meah Shearim due to the high pollution at Kikar Shabbos.
While the minister did not detail issues in the Shmuel HaNavi area, YWN-ISRAEL has reported residents in that neighborhood feel there has been an alarming rise in cancer-related deaths due to antennas positioned in the community.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)