Public Health Coalition announces closure

Due to financial difficulties and a lack of incoming donations, the Israeli Public Health Coalition will dismiss staff members.

May 27, 2013 21:49
2 minute read.
Haifa industry

Haifa industry 521. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsky)

Due to financial difficulties and a lack of incoming donations, the Israeli Public Health Coalition will be closing its doors and dismissing all of its staff members at the end of May, it announced on Monday.

For the past 12 years, the Public Health Coalition has functioned as an advocate for a clean environment and public health, working to reduce morbidity and mortality caused by environmental pollution through policy changes, according to the organization. The Public Health Coalition’s work was focused particularly on improving the conditions of the Haifa Bay region.

“In our decade of activity, we were fortunate to be riding on a popular tide,” wrote Stephen Garnett, chairman of the board, in his farewell letter on Monday. “Al Gore made global warming and the environment subjects of public interest and political weight. I think it is inappropriate to give him importance equal to that of Rachel Carson and Silent Spring 40 years earlier, but he supplied an important and timely push which we benefited from.”

Garnett was referring to the book published by Carson in 1962 about public health and pollution concerns, which was thought to be instrumental in pushing the environmental movement forward.

In the government, Public Health Coalition staff members were active in the formation of the Clean Air Law and also recommended that the Environmental Protection Ministry introduce leak detection and repair devices in the Haifa Refinery complex, the organization said.

Constantly involved in Knesset discussions surrounding industry regulations, cellphone radiation, transportation, moving hazardous materials and emissions controls, the coalition was also instrumental in the creation of the Knesset Environment and Health Committee in 2009. It was also able to convince the Environment Ministry to publicize the conclusion of the Shafir Committee, which warned against the storage of hazardous materials such as ammonia in the Haifa Bay.

In its work to promote public awareness, the Public Health Coalition was the first to publicize the correlation between excess morbidity and air pollution in the Haifa region, the organization explained. The coalition has worked with a wide range of other environmental, social and health groups to help narrow the gap in public health quality among wealthy and poor communities, and has brought in international experts to address Israeli environmental stakeholders.

Garnett specifically commended the coalition members for engaging in “frontal attacks” on various Haifa Bay industries and using data to prove that “chimney emissions were excessive and environmental concentrations of metals and [volatile organic compounds] were sickening.”

In addition, he said, the organization worked with local residents to fight against the asbestos presence in Nahariya and the approval of a garbage incinerator in Iblin.

The Public Health Coalition published several reports, on air pollution and public health, childhood illness with relation to air pollution, hazardous materials in the Haifa Bay region and the connection between women’s illnesses and environmental pollution, Garnett explained.

“Our goal, as money and time run out on us,” Garnett wrote, “is that the work will continue, in a different framework if necessary, but it will continue because it is so important for us, for our children and for the country.”

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