Air pollution cannot be blamed for the high rate of cancer in the Haifa area, according to a report issued on Monday by the Ministry of Health and the Israel Cancer Association, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Although the report acknowledged a significantly higher cancer morbidity rate in Haifa than the rest of the country, the authors said that the available data was insufficient to identify air pollution as the cause, saying it is likely the result of multiple factors, genetic, behavioral, hormonal and environmental.
The conclusion was fiercely contested by environmental activists, who charged that the ministry was knowingly covering up a major health scandal.
MK Yael Cohen Paran of the Zionist Camp, chairman of the lobby for the recovery of Haifa Bay, rejected the report outright: “The Ministry of Health is denying the truth with a miserable statement. it is not coincidental that in the Haifa and Ashkelon regions there are more occurrences of cancer.”
She accused the Ministry of ignoring facts contained in the report itself. “These areas are known to be hot spots … that poison the air and soil,” and “instead of taking responsibility and caring for the health of the residents, the Ministry of Health sows sand in the public’s eyes, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection lacks the ability to ensure effective enforcement.”
Haifa Municipality Council member and mayoral candidate, Avihu Han, together with “The Greens of Haifa” which he heads, also proclaimed that “no one has any doubt that the Haifa region has significantly more cancer occurrences due to the pollution from the petrochemical industry and the polluting facilities in Haifa Bay.”
“The risk of cancer among children in the Haifa sub-district is kept secret, which, if published, would cause a public earthquake in the State of Israel,” he said.
Prof. Lital Keinan Boker, deputy director of the Center for Disease Control in the Ministry of Health, said that the high cancer morbidity in Haifa and Ashkelon cannot be attributed to pollution and that “only lung cancer and, to some extent, bladder cancer are considered to be related to environmental air pollution.”
A separate study released by the Ministry of Health on Monday, headed by Prof. Eliezer Robinson, chairman of the International Cancer Association, focused on the behavioral factors that affect Israeli mortality from cancer. It concluded that approximately 9,600 Israelis could still be alive today had they refrained from such cancer-causing behaviors as smoking, obesity, alcohol and red meat consumption.