The nation's industrial zones are now smog free - at least on paper. The Transportation Ministry on Monday approved a request from the Manufacturers Association that the smoke columns that traditionally appear on the symbol indicating industrial zones be removed from new road signs, in order to better reflect Israel's environmentally conscious industries. Manufacturers Association representatives asked ministry officials to remove the smoke from the signs, saying they did an injustice to the efforts to reduce pollution in industrial zones. According to the association spokesman, over the past three years, factories have invested a total of $750 million in environmental improvements such as emission reduction technologies. "Due to technological development in recent years and the setting of stringent standards, the signage as it appears today, does not reflect modern Israeli industry," the spokesman said. The association wants Israeli road signs to be like the ones in European countries where there is a symbol of a factory, but without the smoke rising from the tall chimneys. To authorize a new sign and include it in the official road sign board, an internal committee in the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety has to study the new suggestions. A new board is prepared and made public every few years. According to a ministry spokesman, the new board will be published sometime in the next few months. The Green Course student environmental organization calls the move a "greenwash." "The public, who suffer daily from the factories' air pollution, doesn't care what's on the signs. This move ignores reality, when instead what we need is more stringent enforcement and harsher sanctions for the factories that scorn the set standards and put peoples' health and lives at risk," Green Course said. "Israeli industry is still a polluting industry," said Aviad Oren from the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva, V'din). "It will remain so until the Clean Air Law goes into effect two years from now." Last July the Knesset approved the Clean Air Law, legislation that provides a comprehensive framework for the treatment and prevention of air pollution by setting responsibilities and imposing obligations on the government, local authorities and the industrial sector. To give the market time to prepare, the implementation is scheduled to begin in 2011. "There is no doubt that there has been an improvement in air quality, but the polluters shouldn't be handing out plaques just yet. The air in Israel is still polluted and factories have a part in it," said Oren. According to the Environmental Protection Ministry Web site, "Industrial sources are responsible for significant quantities of pollutant emissions into the air, most notably particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, and to a lesser extent, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides." The ministry regulates air pollution by industry, by setting minimum requirements, conducting spot checks and fining offenders. In light of severe pollution in two specific areas: Haifa Bay and the Ramat Hovav industrial park in the Negev, the ministry has created special action plans. The Transportation Ministry spokesman was unable to comment on whether the sign board authorization committee had examined the claims of reduced pollution before agreeing to remove the smoke from the signs.