This data were presented a few days ago to the steering committee of a comprehensive study commissioned by the Haifa Municipal Association and funded by the refineries and the electric company as part of their request to extend their operations.
The research points to three main areas with high rates of morbidity: Kiryat Haim, Kiryat Bialik, and southeast Kiryat Tivon and the Carmel range - the side facing the industrial zone. The researchers found that frequency rates of lung cancer and lymphoma in those areas is up to five times the national average.
The researchers tested wind directions and they believe that volatile organic compounds carried from the factory chimneys of those are responsible for the exceptional rate of morbidity. The study is being carried out by a group of 20 researchers led by representatives of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment.
Dr. Hagai Levin, head of the health and environment discipline at the School of Public Health at the Hebrew University, said that "even in the short term, low birth weight is a risk factor for death soon after birth and prenatal complications and even until old age, with diabetes and hypertension. There are also respiratory problems like asthma and cognitive problems such as decreased IQ.
"The data on which this study is based on are from 2012 to the present. In other words, the fact that recently babies were born with low weight and with small head circumference is evidence that air pollution has not decreased as representatives of the Ministry of Environmental Protection claimed," added Dr. Levin.
According to the Channel 2 report, the Haifa Municipality tried to thwart the publication of the data, which should be published at the end of February or beginning of March as part of the publication of the study's interim findings. Rivlin related that Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav came to the office of the head of the Ministry of the Environment, and asked him to extend the study to other cities, so that Haifa would not be the only focus of attention. Other officials at the Environmental Protection Ministry claimed that Yahav tried to have the research stretched out over many more years.
Last year findings were published revealing a high rate of cancer in Haifa and the region. Among the most worrisome data, from a letter of the head of the Ministry of Public Health Services, Professor Itamar Grotto, was that for children aged 0-14, an estimated 30 out of 60 cases in the Haifa area were caused by air pollution. Another study, which examined cancer rates among 4,255 children and teenagers up to the age of 19 between 1998 to 2007, found that the incidence of cancer among children in the Haifa District is higher than the national average – but the findings were not statistically significant.
There is a large gap between cancer rates in children in the Haifa area and the rest of the country. Nearly one in five residents of Haifa aged 65-74 were stricken with cancer. Professor Grotto's letter stated that researchers found that for the residents of the Haifa area the risk of getting cancer was higher than the rest of the country, for 16 out of the 18 types of cancer tested. The researchers stressed that these differences cannot be attributed to smoking as the smoking rates in the Haifa area is not higher, according to a survey by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics.