Following two days of Lag Ba’omer bonfires, most air pollution monitoring stations throughout the country recorded markedly increased concentrations of respirable particles, the Environmental Protection Ministry reported on Monday.
Respirable particle concentrations achieved peak levels between 9 p.m. on Sunday and 3 a.m. on Monday, the ministry said.
Particularly striking was the sharp rise in the presence of PM2.5, fine respirable particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less, the ministry added.
While the Council of the Chief Rabbinate formally moved Lag Ba’omer bonfires and festivities from Saturday night to Sunday night, in order to prevent Shabbat violations, many fires were still kindled on Saturday night as well.
A comparison of the data between the two nights shows increases in pollution levels at some stations and decreases at others, due to various methods of fire kindling as well as changes in meteorological conditions, the ministry said.
Among the monitoring stations with the greatest concentrations of PM10 – respirable particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less – were those at Beersheba, Givatayim and South Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood.
Beersheba showed 146 micrograms per cubic meter, 2.4 times the city’s normal values, while Givatayim and Tel Aviv had 145 micrograms per cubic meter, also 2.4 times the typical daily values for these cities.
Not far behind were Rehovot and Yad Rambam, with 123 micrograms per cubic meter and 121 micrograms per cubic meter respectively, and 2.1 times the normal daily values for both places, the ministry data said.
As far as PM2.5 concentrations were concerned, Nir Yisrael, a moshav near Ashkelon, stood out with the worst levels, with 242 micrograms per cubic meter, and 8.1 times the typical values for the area.
Ashdod was a close second with 226 micrograms per cubic meter – 7.5 times the normal daily values – followed by Rishon Lezion and Gadera, with 168 and 158 micrograms per cubic meter, and 5.6 and 5.3 times their normal daily values respectively.
The Lag Ba’omer data comes a week after a World Health Organization global air pollution report, in which Israel tied for 22nd worst place in the world, in terms of PM10 concentrations, and tied for 40th worst in terms of PM2.5 concentrations.
The WHO study recorded Israel’s average PM10 levels in 2010 as 64 micrograms per cubic meter – more than three times the accepted WHO standard – and PM2.5 levels of 23 micrograms per cubic meter – more than two times the accepted standard.
The Environmental Protection Ministry said that current average concentrations for PM10 and PM2.5 are about 60 and 30 micrograms per cubic meter respectively.
This year, monitoring stations in Gush Dan and Jerusalem saw relatively low particle concentrations, due to the reduction of open spaces available for bonfires within the cities, the Environment Ministry said.
Field studies showed, however, that there was an increase in the frequency in visits to emergency rooms near bonfire hubs due to worsening air quality on Lag Ba’omer, the ministry added.