In their first response to the publication of worrying statistics regarding the health impact of pollution in the Haifa bay area, the researchers behind the study implicitly attack the Ministry of Health, saying they stand behind their findings.

Ynet reporters 02.02.16,

Researchers from Haifa University, who yesterday published statistics on the impact of pollution in the Haifa area on children, have defended their findings in the wake of the public storm unleashed by their study, which included criticisms of their methodology.

The researchers on Tuesday afternoon published their first response to the controversy their research has generated, in which they attack those suspicious of their findings.

“Following the publication of anonymous responses in the media, the team of researchers would like to clarify that it stands behind the study and its methodology,” the statement said.

“It was approved in advance by a professional committee which counted representatives from the Ministries of Health and Environmental Protection among its members,” the statement continued. The reference to “anonymous responses” is thought to be a veiled attack on the Ministry of Health.

The researchers also reiterated that their findings would be sent for peer review in March.

On Tuesday evening, a stormy meeting took place at the Haifa city council, which immediately erupted into shouting and recriminations before it had even begun.

Minister of Health Yakov Litzman attended the meeting, which had been convened specially to discuss the potential ramifications of the concerns raised by the study, including the fear that the heavy pollution is damaging the health of babies in the area.

Litzman said in the meeting that his ministry had not authorized the study. “A study needs to be approved by the relevant authorities, meaning the Ministries of Health and Environmental Protection,” he said.

Shouts erupted at him and at Minister for Environmental Protection Avi Gabbay, with a Haifa council member saying: “Minister Gabbay, you have a nuclear bomb here, a chemical bomb, in the bay. It’s the 11th hour.”

Meanwhile, city residents and their children gathered outside the building in which the meeting was being held, protesting against the health minister and the Haifa mayor for not revealing the study’s worrying results.

The Knesset is tomorrow expected to debate the Zionist Union’s proposal to establish a parliamentary committee in order to examine the
situation in the Haifa bay.

Head of the Zionist Union’s parliamentary group, MK Merav Michaeli, said: “The city’s public has a right to know what their children’s fate and whether the State of Israel is allowing the endangerment of their health. A parliamentary investigation committee is an essential step towards examining what damage has been caused and how to stop it, or at least reduce it.”

Rotem Elizera, Hassan Shaalan and Moran Azoulay contributed to this report.,7340,L-4761232,00.html
On the streets of Haifa, anger and fear mar a sunny exterior – JERUSALEM POST
“I’m afraid to wake up in the morning and find out that I have cancer,” said Etti Ben-Adiva, who works at a cafe along the city’s Carmel beach.
It was a beautiful sunny day in Haifa on Wednesday, but years’ worth of anger, disappointment and sickness caused by pollution nevertheless cast a pall over the city.

“I’m afraid to wake up in the morning and find out that I have cancer,” said Etti Ben-Adiva, who works at a cafe along the city’s Carmel beach.

One of her customers, Shimon Levy, who works as a lifeguard during the summer, said that even if someone offered him a free house in the city’s northern neighborhoods, he would not move there.

“Whoever takes their children to live there are, in my opinion, idiots,” he said.

He suggested that factories be moved to the South, where the population is not so densely populated.

Jerome, a sprightly 75-yearold man wearing a wet suit, said that people are thinking of leaving Haifa because of all this, including himself.

Although he has lived in Haifa for 40 years, he is now thinking of moving elsewhere, such as the Galilee, where industry is not in the cities.

“Do my grandchildren need to die here because of air pollution?” he asked.

One 20-something man by the name of Shaun, who lives in the Bat Galim neighborhood, said that he is also thinking of leaving the city because he is extremely disappointed with what he called a corrupt government.

A group of older gentleman bragged that they are from Tirat Carmel, which they said is the cleanest place in the city.

“If you want to know what the problem is,” said Israel, a retiree in the group, “you have to go back to the British Mandate. The English started this; they created this. Not us.”

Yona, a 50-year-old Haifa native said that the pollution has been going on for years. “The ground here is full of toxins. It had to have been cleaned up years ago.

I lived in the Krayot for six years, and when people there wake up in the morning, they breathe polluted air. You feel it and smell it.”

Amira Bar, who owns an interior design business, was walking while carrying her infant granddaughter Tamar.

Just yesterday, the family found out that Tamar’s head is too small, a condition that preliminary results of a University of Haifa study released on Monday indicated is caused by exposure during pregnancy to pollution from the petrochemical industry.

Tamar will now need to be monitored monthly and have her skull measured regularly.

“It’s very scary. I hope that… well, why hope?” Bar said, as she doesn’t expect change to happen in her lifetime.

“It’s nice that they want to close factories in order to calm the public down, but it is not realistic.”

Bar’s husband is fighting cancer at the moment. “Yesterday he was at Rambam [Medical Center] all day,” she said, noting that his cancer was caused by the pollution.

All of her children have moved out of the city, aside from one daughter. Still, she said moving out of the city is not an option, because Haifa is her home.

Margalit, who is in her 70s and was born in Haifa, said that she grew up with the air pollution, and her daughter had cancer at one point but is now recovered. Several other members of her family had cancer as well. She said that she coughs a lot but is constantly being checked. However, no matter the years, the smell from the factories is noticeable.

“On one side, there is terrible air pollution. But on the other hand, what will happen to all the people working in the factories, if they close? Hundreds of people work there, and that’s hundreds of families,” she said.

With her was Eliyahu, in his 80s, who said the solution is to move the factories out of the city center.

“In no other country in the world is there industry inside the city. It’s always outside,” he said.

On the way out of the city, resident Sara Lazar noted that the pollution is bad, but that the rest of the country isn’t much better.

“Is the air clean in Tel Aviv?” she mused.
Health, Environment ministers try to calm Haifa pollution fears – JERUSALEM POST
Emergency city council meeting held to address disturbing report on birth defects.
The Haifa City Council convened an emergency meeting on Tuesday to address the public’s shock after preliminary results of a University of Haifa study indicated that exposure of pregnant women in the area to pollution from the petrochemical industry caused their babies to be born with heads 20 to 30 percent smaller than average.

As the meeting took place protesters held signs and chanted slogans outside.

A council member interrupted Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay’s speech to say “you have a ticking time bomb here,” as he held a sign resembling the chart Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed the United Nations in 2012 while warning against Iran’s nuclear program.

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman joined Gabbay, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, as well as one of the professors who wrote the report, released on Monday, in addressing the council.

The officials counseled patience.

“This issue is still in its infancy,” Gabbay said. “To hear that babies are being born at a higher risk than others is horrifying. We will wait patiently until the end of the study, as well as until the Health Ministry approves the study, and then decide what to do.”

Boris Portnov, a researcher involved in the study, said intermediate findings would be presented within the next few weeks.

“It is necessary to wait patiently. We are not talking about a matter of months, just a matter of weeks. We are at the last stages of an intermediate report with the initial findings of the study,” Portnov said.

Gabbay said his ministry is working transparently with the public to try to avert panic.

“There is not a day that goes by where I am not dealing with Haifa and I want to solve this problem,” he told the council. “But the solution starts with the public’s faith that this issue is being taken care of. If the public won’t think this way, then we have achieved nothing. It is necessary to deal with how the public feels. The value of transparency is the top priority.”

Litzman told another conference on Tuesday about child safety that he was sure that what was published in the media about the pollution story in Haifa “was not correct. We have to check the facts. Let’s be patient. We have to put the data in proportion without sweeping anything under the carpet.”

Later in Haifa, Litzman said that any findings have to be approved by his ministry as well as Gabbay’s.

“I am in favor of research; we have to do it. I am against hiding uncomplimentary findings. They have to published, and we have to correct things. But before the preliminary report was published, it should have been discussed with the relevant authorities – the Health and Environmental Protection ministries.

I and my professionals sat for hours with the researchers; they didn’t receive answers to all their questions,” he said.

“Even to this very moment, I honor everything that was said in the university’s report but from this point until we come to conclusions is a very far away.”

Zionist Union MK Yael Cohen Paran said earlier that she plans to propose the creation of a Knesset subcommittee to investigate what went wrong in Haifa.

“In the past two years, faced with the reports from epidemiologists and the shocking disease rates, it places a huge question mark regarding the government’s plans to treat