Pollution causing major cancer risks in Haifa
Pollution causing major cancer risks in HaifaBasel Awidat/Flash 90

Residents from the Haifa bay area together with environmentalists joined a massive protest against the air pollution that has been adversely affecting the area for years. While many people had been convinced that the air pollution caused by the myriad of factories near the Haifa port has been causing cancer in many of the residents, a new study revealed on Sunday a different side effect.

According to a report that appeared on Channel 2 news, the morbidity rate in Haifa is much higher in the Haifa area with regards to babies being born at a smaller weight and with smaller heads than they are in the rest of the country.

It was also reported in a comprehensive study carried out by the University of Haifa that there is a higher rate of lymph node cancer as well as cancer of the lungs in the Haifa area by more than five percent over the rest of the country. Professor Micha Barhana of the school for Public Health in Haifa University told Channel 2 that “it was completely expected to find this result. No matter in which field of medicine you look, the morbidity rate is higher in Haifa than everywhere else in the country.”

Barhana continued and said “there is a direct link between the air pollution in the city and the morbidity rate. That air pollution can cause newborns to have less body weight, that is well known. That this study shows there is a link is not a surprise. The air pollution also has a direct effect on heart disease and also causes complications for breathing in young children and infants.”

Motti Blitzlow a Kiryat Haim resident and an environmental activist for over 40 years said during the interview “well feel like we are being held hostage by decision makers in the government. They are simply not interested in us. We are talking about billions of shekel in revenue, and all of it is coming at the cost of public health. There are 800,000 people living under the conditions of harmful pollution, it is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue. There is simply no justice in the government.”

According to the study babies born in and around the Haifa area are 20-30 percent smaller than babies in other areas of the country that have less air pollution. The study showed that the most affected areas are those of Kiryat Haim, Kiryat Bialik, the southeastern area of Kiryat Tivon and the Carmel ridge that faces the petrochemical plants in the Haifa bay area.

“What is really worrying about this situation is that each time a study comes out we have to convince the government again and again to limit the amount of industry in the area and to clean up the pollution. We’ve known about this problem for more than 15 years. It is disappointing that we have to conduct more and more studies to convince those in the government who wish to close their eyes and turn away from the issue, that something must be done about the air pollution in and around the Haifa area.”

Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav said that while the “leak” of the information to the media prior to its presentation to the relevant parties for study is worrisome, however, he and the city council are “fighting around-the-clock” to prevent the expansion of new factories in the Haifa bay area.

"For the first time we have a minister of the environment in the government who is promoting a campaign for air quality in the Haifa Bay area," he said of Kulanu's Avi Gabai. "The time has come when the entire Israeli government should get involved in this issue and not stick their heads in the sand.

"For the first time in history, Haifa has a national campaign with a budget and it is time for the Prime Minister to roll up his sleeves and bring about a governmental decision on the issue and provide the residents of Haifa with the immediate response that they need"