The data in a study released Sunday on how pollution affects children and infants in neighborhoods of Haifa require immediate action, Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman and Environment Minister Avi Gabay said. In a statement released after the two met to discuss the study, the ministers said that the results of the report “require the ministers to take full responsibility for a solution.”
In a separate statement, Minister Rabbi Litzman called the results of the study “unacceptable. We cannot simply ignore this study,” he declared. “The problems raised require immediate attention.”
On Sunday, Channel Two broadcast the results of a study by Haifa University that revealed that infants in several neighborhoods of Haifa are born on average with lower weights and smaller head circumferences than infants in other neighborhoods. The affected neighborhoods are those near the port and industrial areas on the lower reaches of Mt. Carmel, as opposed to those on the higher levels of the mountain. The affected areas include three main epicenters – near the Haifa industrial zone in the northwest corner of the city, on the lower western reaches of Mt. Carmel, and in the suburbs of Kiryat Bialik and Kiryat Tivon on the eastern side of the mountain.
Furthermore, the study showed that incidences of lymphoma and lung cancer in the affected areas are five times greater than the national average. In addition, the affected children are at greater risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, the scientists said. Other related complications could include asthma, as well as lower IQ scores among the affected.
In response, the Haifa Municipality said that the data is incomplete – and insisted that it had been leaked before it could be evaluated by officials. “It is absurd to think that we should be required to respond to the results of a leaked study that is not even complete. We refuse to be drawn into this debate. The Haifa Municipality is one of the few that has been fighting air pollution by the heavy industry in the city.”