After the Environmental Protection Ministry ordered the Jerusalem Central Bus
Station on Sunday to completely separate the bus platform and the building’s
interior due to high pollution levels, an expert deemed the ministry’s
conclusion serious – one that has been identified for quite a long time but has
gone largely ignored by government bodies.
“It’s obvious and it happened
many, many times before, but now we have the smoking gun,” Prof. Menachem
Luria, a professor of industrial hygiene at Hebrew University’s Earth Sciences
Institute, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday night.
“The only thing green
about these buses is the color of the bus.
It’s been years now that we’ve
been saying buses are polluting more than private cars.”
taken by its mobile measuring stations over the past couple months, the
Environmental Protection Ministry found that in more than half of its samples,
concentrations of harmful substances – ozone, sulfur dioxides, nitrous oxides
and particulate matter – in the air were four or five times greater than
In one instance, the ministry found that the air
contained 17 times more nitrous oxides than acceptable, and even at night, when
buses weren’t running, concentrations were often three times the standard level,
according to the report.
The problem stems predominantly from the lack of
ventilation in the areas where passengers board the buses, and the ministry has
received many complaints from the public about the air quality in the station,
the study said. The levels of toxic gases emitted from the buses and into the
building is “very high,” particularly for people with lengthy, ongoing exposure,
such as workers in the mall or the offices above, according to Luria.
you just walk through for just a few minutes, it’s bad, but it’s not as bad as
it is for people who work in those compounds,” he said.
“The result of
air pollution exposure is not immediate – it’s statistical, it takes time,”
“They are subject to many diseases and in the long-term,
it’s life threatening.”
Calling the entire building itself “a sick
building,” Luria blamed Egged entirely for the dangerous conditions
“Egged is fully responsible for using buses with poor pollution
technology,” he said.
“The building is valuable for business because
there are many people who come in – it’s good for business but not good for
The company that built and runs the Central Bus Station in
Jerusalem, Nitzba, refused multiple requests for comment. Nitzba, which used to
be a branch of Egged before privatizing, also built the Beersheba and Ashdod
central bus stations.
According to Globes, there are 7,000 square meters
of commercial space in the first three floors of the building and 8,000 square
meters of office space in the top four floors of the building.
Luria said he has heard complaints from people working in the building demanding
dramatic improvements that never occurred, leading many to vacate the
While the ministry’s report focused only on the situation at
the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, Luria said that this bus station is by no
means the only one in Israel wreaking atmospheric havoc on those who frequent
“The Tel Aviv Central Bus Station has a much larger volume
and more buses and could have more pollution,” Luria said.
But as for the
Jerusalem building, the Environmental Protection Ministry deemed that a physical
barrier – such as an extra set of doors between the interior mall and the area
where passengers board the buses – would significantly improve the air quality
inside, according to the report.
While praising the fact that the
ministry was taking action against Egged in an effort to improve conditions,
Luria criticized the specific route that the ministry ordered the company to
“They’re just separating the problem into two different zones,”
Luria said, stressing that the pollution, in fact, will still be there this
There are simple, yet expensive ways that Egged could improve the
cleanliness of its diesel fuel buses, he explained, encouraging the bus company
“to put better pollution control technology on the buses” – devices and filters
that cut noxious emissions.
“The European standards are very clear about
it, but it’s just that nobody is imposing it,” Luria said.
technology for pollution control for diesel buses is advanced but here, there is
not enough pressure on Egged to do much about it; they just paint their buses
In the future, however, abandoning the diesel completely would be
the best case scenario, and Luria suggested making use of overhead electricity –
as the light rail uses – to power the buses, which is done in many cities across
the world, like Shanghai, San Francisco and Vancouver – the last of which he
called “fully electric.”
“We know that air pollution kills,” Luria said.
“It’s not an instant killer but it kills.”