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Headbanging over Israel’s heavy metal

Worrying concentrations of heavy metals found in the blood of donors from Haifa, as well centers of emission of lead, arsenic and mercury in other areas of Israel.

The worrying results of a national survey among blood donors in Israel were submitted to the Interior and Environmental Protection committee of the Knesset in January 2023. The survey relates to three geographical areas; Haifa, Ramla and Ashdod, all of which are already air pollution hotspots.

Adam Teva V’Din is calling on the Ministry of Environmental Protection to ensure that mapping of emission centers of heavy metals in Israel as well as biological monitoring is conducted in cooperation with the Ministry of Health in order to optimize biological monitoring and and to streamline government action against health-environmental harm arising from heavy metals in Israel.

Results of the survey showed that the concentration of metals such as chromium and lead were higher than average in the blood of donors from Haifa than the rest of the country. However, the focal point or points of these emissions in Haifa have yet to be identified and mapped out. In addition, in recent years a number of emission centers of lead and arsenic have been identified in Ashdod and emissions of mercury in the Ramla area. Although some of the factories that cause this pollution are well known to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, biological monitoring of these places was not performed to test the levels of these metals in the blood and/or urine of the residents of the area. Such testing would give a good estimate of the exposure levels as well as their risks of disease.

The emission levels, the concentrations in the environment and the concentrations in the blood of heavy metals are data that complement each other in order to identify the sources of the problem, and its scope and intensity. Such complete data would benefit and even motivate an effective mitigation policy.

Unfortunately, the current picture received by the Ministry of Environmental Protection on this matter is extremely partial. Biological monitoring of metals was carried out in Haifa, but not cross-referenced with emission data and concentration levels. Reversely, data regarding emissions of additional metals was received at emission centers such as Ashdod and Ramla, yet no biological monitoring or data was included.  

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Mapping of emission centers of heavy metals and biological monitoring are vital steps to streamlining government action on reducing environmental health threats in Israel

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