As cars disappeared from the roads and bicycles sailed through the highways instead, air quality levels were very good throughout Yom Kippur, the Environmental Protection Ministry reported on Sunday.
The plunge in air pollution was particularly prominent in the big cities, places that are typically heavily affected by pollution from vehicles, the ministry explained. Such a noticeable improvement in these areas on Yom Kippur indicates the considerable effect that transportation has as the main source of air pollution there, the ministry said.
With the holiday the concentration of nitrogen oxides plunged, dropping by 92 percent in the Gush Dan region.
Maximum measurements of nitrogen oxides reached 9 parts per billion during the holiday, compared to up to 116 parts per billion on the morning of the day before, the Environment Ministry said.
Jerusalem featured a 95% drop in nitrogen oxide levels, falling from 194 parts per billion to 9 parts per billion on Yom Kippur.
Haifa’s nitrogen oxide levels fell from 41 parts per billion at 6:30 a.m. the day before Yom Kippur to 8 parts per billion during the holiday, the ministry data said.
“We emphasize that the drastic reduction applies only to nitrogen oxides and not respirable fine particles, because the particles have a longer stay in the atmosphere – about 10 days – until they are removed from it,” the ministry said.
Nitrogen oxides – which include a number of nitrogen oxygen compounds, such as nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and nitrous oxide – penetrate deep into the respiratory tract, causing various symptoms of respiratory diseases and reducing the body’s response to bacteria. At low concentration, this can mean lung and eye irritations, but at higher concentrations, it can weaken the body’s defense systems, leading to illnesses such as pneumonia, the Environment Ministry said.