|1||Or Yehuda, Tel Aviv|
|2||Or Akiva, Haifa|
|3||Gush Etzion, Judea and Samaria|
|4||Nehalim, Central District|
|5||Ashkelon, Southern District|
|6||El Fureidis, Haifa|
|7||Tel Aviv-Yafo, Tel Aviv|
|8||Rehovot, Central District|
|9||Nir Galim, Central District|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
|1||Ahisamakh, Central District|
|2||Gan HaDarom, Central District|
|4||Karmei Yosef, Central District|
|6||Midreshet Ben-Gurion, Southern District|
|7||Sde Yoav, Southern District|
|8||Kvutzat Yavne, Central District|
|9||Qiryat Shemona, Northern District|
|10||Karmiel, Northern District|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
Israel is a country located in the western region of Asia, facing onto the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel shares borders with other countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Amongst its cities, Tel Aviv is recognized as Israel's economic heart, whilst the government and capital is based out of Jerusalem, also holding a vast amount of cultural significance for the country.
Regarding its pollution levels, Israel was observed coming in with PM2.5 readings of 20.83 μg/m³ in 2019 as its yearly average, making it come in just behind other countries such as Cambodia and Algeria. PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, making it roughly 3% the size of a human hair (when at 2.5 microns), although of note is that these small particles can be significantly smaller, going down to sizes such as 0.001 microns, and with a decrease in size often comes an increase in danger levels, for reasons that will be discussed later.
Due to PM2.5’s incredibly small size and danger to health, it is used as a major component in calculating the air quality, with other chemicals and particulate matters such as ozone (O3), PM10, carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen and sulfur dioxides all making up the components used to calculate the AQI, or air quality index. For the sake of simplicity (as well as its prevalence), PM2.5 will be mainly used to discuss Israel’s air quality levels.
Israel's PM2.5 reading of 20.83 μg/m³ put it into the ‘moderate’ pollution ratings bracket, which requires a PM2.5 reading of any number between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such. When observing the many cities registered in Israel, the moderate rating seems to be a prevailing theme amongst all of them, with nearly all of the months across the various cities coming in with a moderate rating, save for the occasional dips down into the lower ratings brackets. The economic heart of the country, Tel Aviv, came in with a PM2.5 reading of 21.8 μg/m³ over 2019, putting it into 784th place out of all countries ranked worldwide.
Whilst these readings are all not too excessive in nature, they are indicative that Israel certainly has pollution problems with its air, and could stand to improve them significantly, as any reading over the World Health Organizations target goal of 0 to 10 μg/m³ has a chance of causing adverse effects on the health of those exposed, with vulnerable portions of the population being the most at risk. These demographics would include young children, the elderly, pregnant mothers as well as the sick or immunocompromised being the most vulnerable to the negative side effects of pollution.
Israel sees itself having multiple sources of pollution, which are further compounded by geographical and meteorological conditions, such as its arid or semi-arid climate and desert like environment, as well as a rapidly growing population coupled with a lack of natural resources. Weather conditions such as high levels of sunlight coupled with pollution on the ground level can lead to the further creation of other pollutants such as ozone (O3).
Regarding the main manmade causes, one of the big ones would be emissions from vehicles, with the many cars, motorbikes and heavy duty vehicles such as lorries, trucks and buses all putting out vast amounts of fumes. Many of these heavier ones would run on diesel fuels, adding even further to the pollutive output, with a wider variety of contaminants than a non fossil fuel counterpart would. The list of pollutants and fine particulate matters that these sources give out will be discussed in short.
Other causes of pollution are emissions from factories, which alongside the heavy duty vehicles mentioned, often run on fossil fuels, although it has become more prevalent in recent times for factories and other industrial production plants to look into alternative fuel sources in an attempt to clean up Israel's air quality in the future. As it currently stands, the use of heavy machinery in these factories will also run on diesel fuels, or sometimes fuels of lower quality due to less stringent fuel regulation standards being enforced.
Besides the heavy machinery, the factories themselves often rely on coal as a main source of energy to power their production lines, the combustion of which gives out a further number of pollutants and air contamination. This is not the mention the industrial effluence that pours out from the factories as a byproduct of whatever is being produced. As an example, any plant that deals in the production of plastic production or recycling, will inevitably give out some form of plastic fumes.
So, in closing, the main sources of pollution, or ones with most salient initiatives being taken to address them, are emissions from cars and other similar heavy vehicle fleets, as well as factory emissions. Other smaller ones would include particulate matter pollution coming from construction sites, with the semi-arid environment being a conducive environment for tiny particles of finely ground sand, gravel and silica to be blown into city limits and built up along the roads.
This results in a phenomenon known as ‘road dust’, whereby naturally occurring materials such are rock, ores or metals end up on the roads, exposed to the fumes from vehicle exhaust, often becoming permeated by chemical compounds and then sent billowing up into the atmosphere, causing a deadly mixture of both chemicals and particulate matters to permeate the air.
Observing the data taken over the various cities in 2019, there is a pattern emerging that dictates when the pollution levels rise at certain times. Upon first glance at the readings, there may appear to be no clear pattern, with the pollution levels being somewhat sporadic and subject to random changes, but regarding times when the PM2.5 levels are at their worst, it tends to be at the beginning and end of the year.
There are exceptions to this, with the cities of Bnei Brak, Qiryat Bialik and Qiryat Shamona all having some of their cleanest readings at the beginning of the year, with the first two coming in with readings of 8.2 μg/m³ and 11 μg/m³ in February, indicating a much better quality of air than many other cities.
To observe over the many cities when the worst reading was taken, the cities can be examined from the most polluted ones onwards. Gan Raveh, Israel's most polluted city as of 2019, had its highest PM2.5 reading of 27.1 μg/m³ taken in November. Rishon LeTsiyon, Israel's second most polluted city, also had its highest PM2.5 reading in November, coming in at 26.4 μg/m³.
Bnei Brak saw its highest reading in November at 29.1 μg/m³, whilst Ramat Gan and Holon both saw their most polluted months in January, with readings of 27.9 μg/m³ and 28.1 μg/m³ respectively. This indicates that pollution tends to see its worst (if only by a slight margin) pollution readings during what is considered the winter months in Israel, which runs from October to March the following year.
Due to many cities having their highest PM2.5 readings during this time, it can be demonstrated that the colder weather will have adverse effects on pollution levels, with increased amounts of central heating taking place in homes and businesses, as well as the increased burning of organic materials such as wood for the heating of homes, particularly in lower income districts, although this does not see as much prevalence in modern times.
So, in closing, the times that Israel sees its worst levels of pollution would be in the colder months, and as such preventative measures such as the wearing of fine particle filtering masks as well as avoiding outdoor activity during periods of heightened pollution may become more important for those wishing to look after their health. Information regarding this can be found on air quality maps available on the IQAir website, as well as on the AirVisual app.
With much of its pollution emanating from sources such as vehicular fumes and emissions, as well as smoke and haze given off by factories and other industrial areas, it stands to reason that Israel would have a large amount of related pollutants permeating its atmosphere.
Vehicles are notorious for the release of chemical compounds such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), with nitrogen dioxide being of particular concern due to the excessively large amounts released from cars (as well as from factories, open burn sites or anything which has a form of combustion taking place).
Nitrogen dioxide is so present in areas that see high volumes of traffic that it can actually be used to calculate how much pollution is being caused by vehicles alone, as with a high level of NO2 in the air, there will often be a direct correlation to large volumes of traffic below.
Sulfur dioxide is a dangerous chemical that can not only damage the lungs of those who inhale it, but can contribute to the formation of acid rain, which has a number of consequences on the environment. Ship fuel and other similar fuels that have more lax regulations regarding the sulfur content are often the worst offenders for the release of this pollutant.
Other pollutants in the air, found from both vehicles and factory emissions, would be black carbon and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Among these VOC’s would be some dangerous materials such as benzene, toluene, xylene, methylene chloride, ethylene glycol and formaldehyde. All of these are extremely hazardous to human health, and due to their volatile nature find themselves in gaseous form at much lower temperatures, hence easier to respire and of greater danger.
Of note is that volatile organic compounds can lend themselves to the formation of ozone, along with the aforementioned nitrogen and sulfur dioxides. Whilst it is an extremely important component of the stratosphere, having effects that are beneficial for life on earth, when it finds itself on ground level it becomes a harmful chemical to breathe, triggering off asthma attacks as well as causing irritation to the throat and lungs.
Black carbon is an important particulate matter to mention, due to its release in high quantity from many combustion sources, particularly the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels as well as organic matter. It has carcinogenic properties when inhaled, and can also effect the climate due to its ability to absorb solar radiation and convert it directly to heat, causing a change to localized climate and having knock on effects to the environment as well as human health.
With all the above mentioned chemicals and particulate matters being found in the air in Israel, particularly during the colder months (although lacking the massive spikes in PM2.5 that other countries around the world often see), there would be a number of health issues associated with both short and long term exposure to them, some of which have been touched on already.
Besides having carcinogenic properties, the previously mentioned black carbon can also make its way deep into the lung tissue when inhaled, causing scarring and rapid aging of the lungs, reducing their full capacity as well as increasing the predisposition to a large number of respiratory issues, some of which would include pneumonia, emphysema, bronchitis and the aforementioned asthma attacks, which can also be triggered off by nitrogen dioxide.
Due to the incredibly small size of black carbon (as well as other fine particulate matters such as finely ground silica dust, microplastics or dangerous metals), it has the ability to cross over the blood barrier in the lungs and enter the circulatory system. From here it can wreak havoc on the whole body, causing damage to the blood vessels to occur, as well as attacking the hepatic and renal systems (liver and kidneys). Reproductive health can be damaged, leading to lower fertility rates amongst the population.
Other issues that may occur include ischemic heart disease, whereby the heart tissue fails to receive adequate levels of oxygen and gets damaged in the process. Heart attacks and arrythmias also become a heightened possibility, as well as the chance of strokes occurring. These are but a small number of possible health effects that may occur when exposed to higher pollution levels in Israel, and as mentioned, the higher the PM2.5 readings go, the higher the chance of developing such ailments rises alongside it.