ENVIRONMENTAL LABORATORY

Most government ministries have research institutes and laboratories to serve their specific needs. The Ministry of the Environment operates one of Israel’s major laboratories for pollutant monitoring. The laboratory is furnished with specific equipment for the measurement of pollutant concentrations in various environments. The laboratory aids the district offices of the Ministry of the Environment and local environmental units in identifying, both qualitatively and quantitatively, pollutants in the environs of industrial areas and other sources of pollution. The major aims of the laboratory are to respond to ministry needs in various subjects, most notably air quality.

Laboratory Services

One of the major functions of the laboratory is to serve as a national reference laboratory for quality assurance and control. It supervises environmental tests undertaken in public, private and industrial laboratories so as to ensure that tests are conducted in accordance with standardized methods and that the results obtained are valid. The laboratory also provides essential calibration services to the Ministry of the Environment in the realms of air quality and hazardous substances. It carries out quality assurance of air monitoring equipment operated by town associations for environmental quality and by the Israel Electric Corporation, as well as calibrating equipment for the detection, identification and measurement of hazardous substances during accidents.

The laboratory collects field samples for laboratory analysis in order to determine pollutant levels in residential and industrial areas; to monitor pollutant emissions from industrial plants, power plants and other sources; to determine levels of pollution in surface waters, groundwater, soil, marine water, sewage, sludge and toxic waste; and to assess pollution damage to vegetation.

Analytical tests are undertaken for the following:

* Airborne dust including settling dust, suspended dust, soiling index and smoke emissions from vehicles;
* Components of combustion gases including those formed by photochemical processes;
* Emissions from industrial plants and emissions released during hazardous materials incidents, including solvents and organic and inorganic compounds;
* Pesticides, toxic metals, carcinogens as well as algae and oil spills at sea.

With the recent introduction of eco-labeling in Israel, the laboratory will work along with the Israel Standards Institute in establishing standards for the "green label." Local consumer products that meet the Israel Standards Institute’s environmental criteria will be able to carry a "green label". The label is granted following an overall evaluation of the product’s environmental quality, as compared to other products in the same category.

Finally, the laboratory organizes environmental courses and provides environmental training to Israelis and new immigrants alike, and offers consultancy services on environmental problems to the general public.

Surveys and Research

The laboratory conducts surveys and practical research on subjects which are of special importance to the ministry. Research fields include the development of new analytical methods; development of equipment for the prevention of pollution by particulates, toxic metals, micro-organisms and other pollutants; development of meteorological models to determine the contribution of pollution sources to different regions; and vehicular and industrial pollution surveys in the metropolitan areas of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.

Chemical Tests and Equipment

The laboratory performs its chemical tests in accordnce with standard methods, or according to recommendations of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency as published in the Federal Register and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), or as per NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) methods for workplaces.

Tests currently conducted by the laboratory include:

* Laboratory tests of inorganic compounds include sampling and analysis of different materials in air, water, sewage, sludge, soil and plants. Analysis of metals is carried out by an Atomic Absorption Spectrometer which includes a graphite furnace; analysis of anions by means of an ion chromatograph; chemical tests using wet processes such as spectrophotometry; direct field monitoring of gases emitted by various sources in the environs of residential areas and in industry using a mobile air monitoring station.

* Tests of organic materials using a gas chromatograph (GC) and high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC): sampling and analysis of organic solvents and other hazardous organic materials and pesticide residues in the air; analysis of organic solvents in sewage using the EPA Purge and Trap method.