Air pollution levels plunge 99% in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv over Yom Kippur

With traffic ceasing almost completely all areas saw steep drops in nitrogen oxide levels.

October 5, 2014 15:00
1 minute read.
Yom Kippur

An Israeli boy rides his bike on an empty motorway during Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Cities around Israel experienced dramatic drops in air pollution levels on Yom Kippur – the sole day in the year when traffic essentially ceases to flow – with Jerusalem and Gush Dan boasting a decrease of nitrogen oxides by a whopping 99 percent.

Throughout the country, air pollution levels plummeted on Saturday, in some places nearly eliminating the presence of nitrogen oxides – contaminants prominent in motor vehicle emissions, the Environmental Protection Ministry explained.

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The phenomenon was observed most in the big cities, regions typically affected by air pollution emitted from vehicles.

The ministry’s air monitoring stations indicated that the concentration of nitrogen oxides in both the Gush Dan and Jerusalem regions dropped by 99% during the holiday, from 104 parts per billion to 2 parts per billion in both places. In the Haifa area, meanwhile, the concentration of nitrogen oxides fell by 77%, from 22 parts per billion before Yom Kippur to just 3 parts per billion, the ministry said.

“The great improvement in air quality on this day is indicative of the impact of transportation as the main source of air pollution in big cities,” it said.

Nitrogen oxides can be particularly dangerous, as they are able to penetrate deep into the respiratory tract and cause a variety of respiratory symptoms and illnesses, as well as reduce the body’s resistance to bacteria, the ministry stressed.

Symptoms can range from eye and lung irritation to a weakening to the body’s defense against respiratory diseases like pneumonia.


Children are especially sensitive to nitrogen dioxide, and those exposed tend to be more susceptible to respiratory illnesses – with colds settling in the chest and often developing into bronchitis, the ministry warned.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said that its staff members are working on a number of programs to reduce air pollution caused by vehicles, including the idea to restrict the entry of polluting vehicles to city centers, encouraging the use of carpools through incentives to employers and local authorities, advising travelers to use the carpooling application PickApp, and discouraging the use of private cars.

In addition, the ministry is pushing for urban renewal within existing neighborhoods rather than new construction, which often requires residents to use cars due to their distance from city centers.

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