Comprehensive coverage

Air pollution: the silent killer

A study found that 2,253 people die each year in Israel from diseases related to air pollution - more than the victims of traffic accidents, hostilities, murders and suicides combined

Air pollution originating from power plants, industry, transportation and more causes up to 2,253 deaths per year. Illustration: pixabay.
Air pollution originating from power plants, industry, transportation and more causes up to 2,253 deaths per year. Illustration: pixabay.

By Maya Falah, Angle, Science and Environment News Agency

The number one cause of death in Israel is cancer, which as of 2014 claims the lives of 10,931 people a year. But today it is clear that one of the causes of cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and other diseases is none other than air pollution.

A study published in recent weeks by researchers from the Ministry of Health found that mortality in Israel from particulate air pollution - air pollution that results from respirable particles up to 2.5 microns in diameter, and originating from power plants, industry, transportation, etc. - is between 1,608 and 2,253 deaths per year. Air pollution is also responsible for a high morbidity burden on the health system, which amounts to many days of hospitalization and an economic cost of billions to the economy each year.

4 billion shekels per year

are youstudy, recently published in the Israel Journal of Health Policy Research, was edited by Dr. Gary Ginsberg, Dr. Udi Kaliner and Prof. Itamar Grotto from the Ministry of Health. "The research was carried out on the basis of a model of the World Health Organization that was adapted to Israel," Grotto explains. "Within the framework of the model it is possible to calculate the relative part of the morbidity caused by particulate air pollution". The researchers collected data on the amount of respirable particles from 52 monitoring stations scattered throughout the country, and cross-referenced them with the morbidity data for various diseases - heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, lung cancer, and more - and with the extent of mortality and hospitalization days in Israel due to these diseases. The data refers to the year 2015.

According to the results of the model, air pollution in Israel causes 1,608 deaths and 184 thousand hospitalization days per year. When you calculate the cost of hospitalization days and deaths to the country, the result is that the burden of morbidity and mortality to the Israeli economy as a result of air pollution each year is 544 million dollars, which is over 2 billion NIS.

In addition to the World Health Organization model, the study examined two other models, which include death and hospitalization as a result of other diseases, including type 2 diabetes in adults, asthma and low birth weight in children - which are also caused, among other things, by air pollution. According to the strict model of the Israeli researchers, in Israel there are 2,253 deaths and 542 thousand days of hospitalization per year that result from air pollution, and they cost the country a little more than one billion dollars (about 4 billion NIS). Out of the approximately 18 billion dollars that the state spends on health services each year, this is a definitely considerable part - a little less than a quarter.

Air pollution from transportation is the main contributor to pollution and the morbidity and mortality associated with it. Photo: Beivushtang, Wikipedia.
Air pollution from transportation is the main contributor to pollution and the morbidity and mortality associated with it. Photo: Beivushtang, Wikimedia.

According to the World Health Organization, environmental air pollution and air pollution originating from the home environment are responsible for about 7 million deaths in the world every year, of which about 3.7 million are from environmental air pollution. An assessment carried out by the World Health Organization regarding Israel last year found that environmental air pollution causes about 2,500 deaths every year and costs the economy about 7 billion dollars. Prof. Grotto's new findings are based on more recent data and a more complex model, and are lower than the EU estimates.

4 times more than car accidents

"In order to reduce the burden of morbidity and mortality, it is necessary to address the reduction of air pollution from the various sources, where air pollution from transportation sources is the main contributor to pollution and the morbidity and mortality associated with it," says Prof. Grotto. "The burden of mortality and morbidity creates a significant cost, and other studies in this field indicate that treating the infection usually costs less than treating its consequences."

The number of deaths caused by exposure to air pollution in Israel is four times greater than the total number of victims in road accidents each year, and many more than other causes of death that receive a lot of attention and exposure in the media - such as murders, suicides, acts of terrorism and various diseases. "The significant proportion of mortality and morbidity associated with particulate air pollution calls for the establishment of an interagency program that will identify and implement economically effective intervention strategies," the researchers conclude, "in order to reduce the significant burden of mortality and morbidity, both in human terms and in economic terms, of air pollution in Israel."

See more on the subject on the science website:

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.