Residents of the bay city of Haifa may be able to breathe a little easier after the cabinet approved Sunday a NIS 115 million plan to decrease air pollution in the area.
The project calls for air pollution to be halved by 2018 in the city and region, which is home to a number of highly polluting plants and some of the worst air in the country.
Because of the city’s location, ringed by the Carmel mountain range, much of the air pollution is trapped over the city and unable to disperse, exacerbating the problem. A study published earlier this year showed increased rates of pollution-caused cancer in the city, and led the mayor to issue stop work orders to several factories.
The government plan also includes approval for an ammonia plant in the south of the country instead of in the Haifa bay area, as had been originally planned.
In April, it was reported that Prof. Itamar Grotto, head of public health services in the Health Ministry, had found that half of the cases of cancer among children in Haifa were due to the city’s air pollution.
Grotto’s study also found that from 1997 to 2008, in the Haifa metropolitan area in general, the rates of cancer were 16 percent higher than in the rest of the country for 16 of the 18 types of cancer checked. Certain types of cancer — lung, for instance — were even more prevalent: 29% more in Haifa than in the rest of the country.
But the Health Ministry later denied that there was evidence linking cancer rates in the northern port city to air pollution. “There is no testimony toward an excessive incidence of cancer in children,” it said.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.