Dizengoff St. traffic.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Despite a steady decrease in emissions since 2002, transportation remained the most significant air pollution source in the urban centers throughout 2014, the Environmental Protection Ministry revealed on Wednesday.
The ministry published its findings in its 2014 Air Quality Report, drawing data from more than 100 air quality monitoring stations around the country, as well as 14 sampling points with high concentrations of volatile organic compounds that result from fuel combustion. The report explores a large array of air pollutants, including toxic and carcinogenic materials, and also looks at the origins and treatment status of various hazardous odors.
The researchers found exceptionally high nitrogen dioxide levels near all central traffic arteries in the big cities. Particularly extreme deviations were identified in the Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood in Jerusalem, as well as close to transportation stations in the most bustling areas of Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
At 14 sampling points around the country, selected mainly due to their status as transportation, industrial or energy hotspots, Environment Ministry researchers found the volatile organic compounds Benzo(a)pyrene and formaldehyde – byproducts of fuel combustion in industry and transportation.
Meanwhile, in the northern industrial area of Ashdod, measurements of lead and cadmium exceeded acceptable standards by 1.34 and 2.92, respectively, accompanied by high readings of nickel and arsenic as well, the report said. Such metals are poisonous and accumulate as a result of recycling plants, oil refineries and pesticide factories.
The Environmental Protection Ministry conducted 257 spot checks of factory chimneys in 2014, which involved 42 facilities within 35 factories, according to the report.
Abnormal results were discovered at eight factories; the ministry said it is implementing enforcement measures.
“A dramatic change is needed in the treatment of air pollution caused by vehicles and industries in Israel,” Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay said on Wednesday.
Following the publication of the 2014 report, the ministry explained that it is continually expanding operations to reduce air pollution: giving factories incentives to switch to natural gas, increasing monitoring and enforcement, encouraging public transportation and bicycle use.
Many of these measures were announced in early August as part of a National Action Plan for the Haifa Bay area.
Aiming to bring about a dramatic change in air quality, Environmental Protection Ministry officials are promoting the NIS 330 million plan, which still requires government approval.
In addition to setting specific targets for emission reduction at industrial facilities, plans call for establishment of the country’s first official low emission zone in which heavy vehicular traffic will be limited in to European standards.
The plan also calls for halving factory emissions by 2018, among other measures.
“The Haifa Bay action plan is just the beginning and will lead to decisive steps in additional cities,” Gabbay