Bonfires, meteorological conditions during Lag Ba’omer stimulate hike up air pollution 17 times normal levels.

By sunrise on Lag Ba’omer Sunday, air pollution levels had risen up to 17 times their normal values across the country, the Environmental Protection Ministry reported.

As Israeli revelers created bonfires across the country beginning Saturday evening, an increase in the concentration of respirable particles occurred, with levels peaking at most air pollution monitoring stations between 9 p.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday, the ministry said.

One of the most striking features of fires is their ability to cause a dangerous increase in the concentration of fine particles that are smaller than 2.5 microns and can easily pass into people’s airways. Particle concentrations are influenced according to the locations and monitoring levels of the fires as well as meteorological conditions such as wind speed, wind direction and atmospheric turbulence conditions, the ministry said.

This year there were low concentrations of particles at the monitoring stations in the Gush Dan, Jerusalem and other places, primarily due to the reduction of open spaces within Israel’s cities, the office noted. Meanwhile, field studies have shown that there is an increased incidence of emergency hospital visits in areas that are in close proximity to the temporarily worsened air quality on Lag Ba’omer, according to the ministry.

In Bnei Brak, near Highway 4, the concentration of 2.5-micron particles measured in micrograms per cubic meter was 533 – 17.8 times higher than levels on a clear day.

Jerusalem’s Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood featured concentrations of about 161 micrograms per cubic meter, 5.4 times the levels on a clear day. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv’s Station D measured concentrations of about 99 micrograms per cubic meter – 3 times the levels on a clear day, the Environmental Protection Ministry said.