Peretz orders stricter air quality standards

Peretz instructed his office to complete the proceedings involved with making air quality standards.

Amir Peretz at Palmahim Beach 370 (photo credit: Sharon Udasin)
Amir Peretz at Palmahim Beach 370
(photo credit: Sharon Udasin)
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz has urgently ordered the promotion of stricter air quality standards that would be capable of preventing 700 deaths each year, the ministry announced on Saturday evening.
Peretz instructed his office to complete the proceedings involved with making air quality standards that determine acceptable pollution levels in the atmosphere more stringent, the ministry said. These new standards will be submitted to the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Earth Day – Monday, April 22 – the office added.
In addition, Peretz ordered that the tightening of standards occur hand-in-hand with the resumption of promoting a national program to prevent air pollution, which was halted for the election period. According to Israel’s Clean Air Law, such a program was required to go into effect by January 1, 2012, and environmental groups have been up in arms over its failure to do so.
“In order to ensure that the air here is cleaner, we must take a hard line,” Peretz said, stressing that air pollution regulations in Israel should go beyond even European standards.
“I have urgently ordered a renewal of the advancement of the national program for the prevention of air pollution.”
Full compliance with the ministry’s new standards would be able to prevent the deaths of 700 Israelis each year, also saving hundreds from hospitalization and significantly reducing the incidence of heart and lung diseases, the ministry noted. In light of the reduced health issues, the country would save an estimated NIS 8 billion each year, the office added.
For the first time ever, Israel will be establishing a standard for concentrations of tiny respirable PM 2.5 particles, known globally as one of the most influential air pollutants on public health, the ministry explained. The new standard for Israel, which experiences heavy dust storms from North Africa and high pollution levels from traffic congestion, will be 25 micrograms per cubic meter – the average level for the country.
While 25 micrograms per cubic meter annually is equivalent to the European standard for PM 2.5 presence, the United States has much stricter regulations, with the US Environmental Protection Agency bringing its standard down in January from 15 to 12 micrograms per cubic meter annually.
In response to a query from The Jerusalem Post, the ministry explained that the US is able to maintain a much lower standard than Israel since they don’t experience the dust storms that dominate the region here.
In addition to increasing stringency on PM 2.5 presence, the ministry will also be adjusting standards for nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide to be even stricter than those in Europe. Meanwhile, following a decision on the part of the US EPA to increase the permissible concentration of methylene chloride in the air, the Environmental Protection Ministry, in conjunction with the Health Ministry, chose to adopt this standard as well.
All new standards will take effect in two years, enabling factories and other facilities to adjust their operations in order to meet the new standards, the ministry said. In addition, no new factories, roads, quarries or other sites that are not able to meet the strictest air quality standards will be approved in the future, the office added.