Israel's 2020 health and environment report, released by Health Ministry

The report examines the challenges in various environmental areas that affect health.

Deep breaths: Smoking pollution in Tel Aviv (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE PEXELS)
Deep breaths: Smoking pollution in Tel Aviv
 The Health Ministry released Israel's 2020 Health and Environment report, which examines the challenges in various environmental areas that affect health - air quality, tobacco smoking, quality of drinking water, pesticides, food chemicals and consumer product chemicals,  radiation, climate change and morbidity and morality trends affected by the environment (including cancer and asthma).
"It is especially fittinge to publish this report at the end of 2020," said Professor Itamar Grotto in the introduction to the report. "Although public and political attention is focused on other issues, urgent health and environmental issues have not disappeared and must be addressed.
He added: "In an effort to restore and rebuild public health following coronavirus, it is the State of Israel's responsibility to replenish the environment and health resilience. Israel needs to limit the public's exposure to toxic substances in the air, water, consumer products, and food, and to increase accessibility to 'green' spaces. "
Below are highlights in this year's report: 
Air quality: There is a significant decrease in the concentrations of particulate matter and ozone precursors in the air. Challenges for the future include updating the national plan for the prevention and reduction of air pollution in Israel, as well as updating clean air regulations.
Tobacco smoking: Progress has been made in measuring the concentrations of cotinine (a breakdown product of nicotine) in urine samples among children, newborns and pregnant women. Interventions are needed to reduce exposure to environmental tobacco smoke targeted at high-risk populations, such as the Arab population in Israel.
Chemicals in drinking water: Progress has been made in limiting the lead content in products that inevitably come into contact with drinking water. A new challenge is the collection and publication of data on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS) in drinking water as well as the adoption of a new standard for these pollutants under drinking water regulations, in line with the new European policy.
Pesticides: A number of plant protection pesticides have recently been phased out following a "re-evaluation," including the herbicide pracuate, which is linked to Parkinson's disease.
Chemicals in food: Progress has been made in conducting surveys on aluminum and phthalates in baby food. Challenges for the future include conducting surveys on dioxins, perfluoroalkyl, and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS) in food in Israel.
Planning: Progress has been made regarding open public areas, with an emphasis on playgrounds (new regulations were established in 2019). In light of the increase in congestion in Israel, as well as the lessons learned overtime from coronavirus, one of the most prominent challenges is increasing the number of "green" and high-quality open public spaces within cities.
Climate change: A national action plan to tackle climate change has been approved. However, a budget has not yet been set out for the plan. The challenge is to prepare for  long-term effects of climate change on health, for example in the distribution of mosquitoes and other vectors.   
Translated by Abigail Adler.