The first official report on Haifa’s pollution and disease rates is ready, with one caveat: The government doesn’t deem it ready for the public’s eyes just yet. On Thursday, March 31, the researchers carrying out a five-year Haifa epidemiology report submitted their findings from the study’s first year to the Environmental Protection Ministry; exactly two months after preliminary results were leaked to the public. The results revealed in late January shocked the public as they disclosed the links the study found between Haifa-area pollution from the petrochemical industry and a number of health issues, including abnormalities in babies and higher rates of disease in parts of the city.
The ministry said on Thursday, that the report’s findings need to be analyzed by a committee made up of officials from the Environmental Protection and Health ministries, as well as by academics and health institutions, before they can be made public. However, the ministry spokesperson did not indicate exactly how long such an analysis will take. The head of the parliamentary environmental and social lobby, Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), has demanded that the report be made public immediately. MK Khenin said on Thursday that residents of the Haifa area “are worried, and rightly so, about the lack of transparency… people have the right to know the truth about the air they are breathing, this study belongs to the public and is for the public.”
Liora Amitai, director of Citizens for the Environment, said that she has kept an eye on the progress of the study since its beginning and has been concerned about ulterior motives that might be at play. “From the very start, we were concerned that the authentic data compiled by the researchers wouldn’t make it to the public,” she said. “Too many special interests are involved in this study, and [authorities] are working hard to attempt to prevent its publication.” Amitai added that while she has complete faith in the researchers and their methods, she “doesn’t trust the government officials who were entrusted with the information.”