plaintiffs say reports, new findings regarding air pollution in Haifa and its possible link to cancer have caused them mental anguish and anxiety over their health.
By Zafrir Rinat and Ido Efrati | Jun. 11, 2015

Four Haifa residents have asked to file a class action suit against 11 polluting plants in the Haifa Bay area following recent reports about air pollution in the area and its link to cancer risk.

Meanwhile, the Ministry for Environmental Protection this week slapped a closure order on some of the production facilities of Ashdod’s Hakurnas Lead Works, following indications of highly excessive emissions of the toxic substances lead and arsenic.

A request to file a class action suit against plants in the Haifa Bay was submitted to the Tel Aviv District Court this week by attorney David Or-Chen. The plaintiffs say the reports and new findings regarding air pollution in Haifa and its possible link to cancer have caused them mental anguish and anxiety over their health.

One of the plaintiffs, Yehoshua Klein, 68, says in the deposition that since he learned of the health hazards caused by the emissions of the Haifa Bay factories, he is very anxious. “The knowledge that as a result of air pollution he risks contracting cancer and dying is causing him much grief, despair and deep fear for his health,” Klein says in the deposition.

Klein says he had prostate cancer in the past although there was no family history of it and recovered, but his health is sensitive.

Another plaintiff, Na’ama Kraus, 41, left her home in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood near the bay following the reports and moved further away. She says in her deposition that since she heard of the pollution hazards she has been very anxious for her and her family’s health and especially for the health of her husband, who grew up in the bay area. Other plaintiffs are Yehudit Blum, 36, who moved from Neve Sha’anan to Kfar Hasidim near the Nesher cement plant and Eliezer Brautman, 69, who says he can see from his window a murky yellow layer over the sea and smell pungent odors.

Or-Chen believes that anyone who is at risk of suffering from anxiety, fear for his health or feels distress is entitled to compensation. The lawsuit represents some 530,000 residents of Haifa and the environment in 2005-2015. The plaintiffs demand compensation of 28,000 shekels ($7,330) a person for pain and suffering – totaling some 14.8 billion shekels.

The Health Ministry’s head of public health, Professor Itamar Grotto, recently wrote to the region’s planning institutions that there is a causal connection between cancer and the substances emitted by the Haifa Bay plants.

The plaintiffs attached to the suit an opinion by Professor Shai Linn, epidemiologist and dean of the faculty of Social Welfare and Health Studies at Haifa University, linking the pollutants from the factories to the increased cancer risk.

Linn writes, “If a certain person was exposed to one or more cancerous substances it is highly likely that each of the cancerous factors contribute to the damage caused to him, to DNA changes and to his proper functioning. Then, when a new cancer factor comes (like the substances in the air) the ‘sufficient cause’ for the cancer’s eruption will be created.”

Or-Chen says the plaintiffs are not required to prove a complete causal link between the pollutants and cancer disease to file the suit. Linn’s opinion is supposed to substantiate the reports about the air pollution and the risks of exposure to it, demonstrating that the grounds for the plaintiffs’ fears are real.

Lead concentrations found in air samples near Hakurnas Lead Works in Ashdod were 3.5 times higher than permissible and the arsenic levels were 5.6 times higher, leading the Environment Protection Ministry to shut down part of the factory.

Hakurnas melts lead to recycle and produce new batteries. Arsenic, a toxic chemical is used as a supplement to lead to harden it, is known to cause cancer in human beings. Ongoing exposure to low arsenic concentrations can harm the nervous system, reduce the I.Q. and cause damage to the heart and blood system. Lead is a toxic metal. Exposure to it can halt children’s mental development and damage their nervous system, reduce fertility and increase blood pressure.

Hakurnas manager Miron Badin said, “We are checking the matter, … we have reservations regarding the ministry’s step.”