Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station 311.
(photo credit: Michael Melech)
After hearing about a number of cases in which government workers have become
seriously ill due to their building environments, the Knesset Environment and
Health Committee held a hearing on Tuesday about “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBS)
and the lack of legislation regarding this subject in Israel.
Bass-Spector from the Research and Information of the Center spoke about the
growing phenomenon of workers experiencing symptoms in their places of
employment and how the feelings often disappear after work hours, according to a
statement from the committee.
These symptoms include headaches, eye
irritation and sore throats, and are usually caused by air quality problems
stemming from isolation from outside air and the presence of chemicals in dyes,
glue, furniture and carpets, the statement said.
While efforts are
typically made to improve indoor air quality by increasing circulation and using
air-blending systems, chemical pollutants and microbes still often are able to
enter the air through places like air-conditioning filters, the committee
Yet despite these problems, no legislation on Sick Building
Syndrome exists in Israel, according to the committee.
The Clean Air Act
of 2008 as well as the Nuisance Abatement Amendment of 2011 regulate air
pollution, and the Labor Committee recently passed regulations concerning
permissible substance concentrations at industrial sites, but no laws deal with
the office building environments, the committee statement
Similarly, an occupational physician and worker supervisor from the
Industry, Trade, and Labor Ministry pointed out that while she has 50 inspectors
for industrial buildings under her jurisdiction, she has none that handle office
buildings, according to the report.
During the hearing, various
governmental employees affected by sick buildings spoke to the committee
Danny Karaklis, the branch head and plans inspector for the
Interior Ministry’s northern district, described a critical situation for
himself and his own employees in Upper Nazareth, where 20 of 63 employees in a
three-story building have become very sick in recent years, some suffering from
cancer, according to the statement. Meanwhile Hadar Castro, a worker at
Employment Services in Jerusalem, discussed the “shocking state” of her office
located above the Central Bus Station, where there is no system that separates
the air of the office and that of the bus station, the report
“Among the employees, there are cancer patients and according to
the workers, the patients are constantly subjected to a fear of their
surroundings,” the statement said. “For the workers, there is no occupational
physician whom thy can contact.”
In response to Castro’s description,
Committee chairman MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said he will turn to the Finance
Ministry’s housing administration – or even to the finance minister himself – to
address the severity of the situation, according to the committee.
feel that we have just touched the tip of the iceberg,” Henin said at the
conclusion of the meeting, stressing that the government must exercise its
authorities to improve work conditions.
If not, he added, the committee
will consider proposing tougher legislation in the future.