Over one thousand activists and Haifa area residents reignited protests Sunday over Health Ministry findings that linked heightened cancer rates in the city with high levels of air pollution.
Carrying signs reading “we’re suffocating,” and wearing anti-pollution masks, protesters gathered in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Haim demanding the government take responsibility.
“My children have a greater chance of getting cancer than children in the rest of the country,” Kiryat Haim resident Haim Segal told Hebrew-language site Walla.
“The risk we face is far too high. I demand the government and mayors take responsibility and care for the public.”
Lior Amitay, head of the Public Health Coalition, the environmental group that organized the protest, demanded a designated task force be set up to address the prolonged pollution, and that expansion plans for the local industrial zone be frozen.
Haifa is home to Israel’s largest seaport and a number of petrochemical factories.
Last month it was reported that Prof. Itamar Grotto, head of public health services in the Ministry of Health, had found that half of the cases of cancer among children in Haifa were due to the city’s air pollution.
Grotto’s study also found that from 1997-2008, in the Haifa metropolitan area in general, the rates of cancer were 16 percent higher than in the rest of the country in 16 of the 18 types of cancer checked. Certain types of cancer — lung cancer, for instance — were even more prevalent: 29% more in Haifa than in the rest of the country.
But the Health Ministry later denied that there was evidence linking cancer rates in the northern port city to air pollution. “There is no testimony toward an excessive incidence of cancer in children,” it said.