21/03/2016

Government ministers have approved a proposal by the ministers of environmental protection and health for a program to evaluate the link between public health and environmental nuisances. The National Action Plan got the ok at a Cabinet meeting on March 20, 2016. The plan will include the identification, assessment, prevention, and reduction of environmental nuisances that damage health. Its approval comes a few months after the government began implementing the Haifa Bay Action Plan to Reduce Pollution and Environmental Risks, which sharpened the need for a national plan to assess the link between health and environment. According to the Ministry of Health’s assessment, some 1,600 Israelis die prematurely every year due to air pollution.

The plan will be formulated by an inter-ministerial team that will be established for this purpose. It will be approved by the ministers of environmental protection and health, before being put before the government for a vote.

Implementation of the plan will include conducting a thorough analysis of all environmental factors that affect human health, such as: industrial and vehicular air emissions, quality of drinking water and food, exposure to chemicals and pesticides, exposure to different types of radiation, the use of consumer products, living conditions, and a person’s work environment.

Environmental Protection Minister Avi ​Gabbay: "Reducing air pollution is our most important task, and this program will allow us to focus and prioritize environmental activities in accordance with health risks."

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman: "The state takes responsibility for the impact of the environment on our health. The national plan, which we are implementing jointly with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, includes all the components of preparation, assessment, and preventative measures to ensure public health and to prevent an impact on the environment from air pollution when possible. I am sure that thanks to the close cooperation between the ministries, we will know better how to protect the public and prevent environmental disease."

In recent decades, significant progress has been made to reduce environmental hazards in Israel, and health considerations were taken into account when determining policy to deal with such nuisances. However, treatment of environmental hazards and reducing their negative impact on health is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, instead of on a national level. Therefore, comprehensive information on various aspects of the connection between the environment and public health is not available. This includes the effect of chronic exposure to pollutants, the impact of nuisances on vulnerable populations, and more.