Israeli port city closes 5 factories over cancer fears

The mayor of Haifa, Israel's third largest city, ordered Sunday the closure of five petrochemical plants following a health ministry warning linking high cancer rates to air pollution.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav further said that municipality trucks were blocking the entrances to Israel Oil Refineries and Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures, both of which are based on the bay in the northern port city.

"From now on, no tankers will have access to the factories," he said in remarks relayed by his office, which said five factories had been ordered to shut down.

The move came after a senior health ministry official sent a letter to the interior ministry's planning department warning of a disproportionately high cancer rate in the Haifa area due to the operation of such plants.

Written by Professor Itamar Grotto, head of the ministry's public health services, the letter quoted Hebrew University research published in the American Journal of Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention which found "an increased risk of developing cancer in a heavily-industrialised sub-district" of the city.

The letter was submitted as part of an appeal against plans to expand in the area.

"Compared to the incidence in the rest of Israel, the Haifa subdistrict population had an elevated hazard ratio of lung, head and neck, colo-rectal, gastric and oesophagus, bladder and cervical carcinoma," the researchers wrote.

"If the latest data is correct, we demand an immediate halt to all operations of the polluting factories in the Greater Haifa area," Yahav said.

The environmental protection ministry confirmed the Haifa Bay area "ranked first in pollutant emissions in Israel" while noting that the research was based on data from a decade ago and there had been "a 70 percent drop in " in the bay area over the past six years.

In a statement, Israel Oil Refineries said it had invested over one billion shekels ($255 million/236 million euros) in "preserving the environment and diminishing pollutant emissions."

The company, which describes itself as Israel's "largest integrated refining and petrochemical group," said "objective bodies" had measured "dramatic improvements" in pollution levels.

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© 2015 AFP

Citation: Israeli port city closes 5 factories over cancer fears (2015, April 19) retrieved 20 September 2019 from
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Apr 20, 2015
Hope these guys have some science to back the closedown, it hard to see how industrial pollution causes "cervical carcinoma" without a severe, measurable, female endocrine imbalance.
But dodgy science and "gunboat diplomacy" using trucks aside: Their emissions regulations should be addressed (by someone with a level head) if they have created a cancer hotspot.

Apr 20, 2015
Why must the citizens have to prove it is hurting them? Shouldn't the plant prove how it is NOT hurting them?

Eyenstein has the priorities backwards.

Apr 28, 2015
gkam: You have an unrealistic view of life. It would be wonderful if companies could give themselves the costly latitude to mitigate every possible risk. But in the unpleasant real world, a legal case would have to be proven to stop, or compensate for, environmental harm.
If a crime has been committed it should be police cars not council trucks closing the sites.
Evidence has to be gathered to prove cause of a suspected un-natural cancer hotspot. Court orders to stop production should be obtained if a judge can be convinced of probable cause.

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