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This article has been selected for endorsement by the Editor-in-Chief due to its focus on epidemiology in Bedouin populations as related to industrial emissions.
1Department of Epidemiology and Health Services Evaluation, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel. 2School of Public Health, Haifa University, Haifa, Israel. 3Southern Regional Health Department of the Israeli Ministry of Health, Beersheba, Israel. 4Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, U.S.A.
Background: The study was initiated by public concern about exposure to an industrial park (IP) emission. The study examined whether mortality in the Bedouin population in the southern part of Israel is associated with the residential distance to the IP.
Material and Methods: Ecological study during 1995–2001 included the entire Bedouin population. Mortality data was obtained from the Central Bureau of Statistics. As an indirect measurement of exposure we used residential distance to the IP (with 20 km radius as a cut-of-point) based on residents’ complaints about odor related to the IP. Differences in mortality rates by distance were assessed by the Mantel-Haenszel relative risk (M-H RR) within the 95% CI. The country Arab population served as a reference for calculation of the age-adjusted standardized mortality ratio (SMR).
Results: Increased mortality rates due to symptoms/ill-defined conditions and non-external causes were observed in the Bedouin population of both sexes, residing up to 20 km from the IP, compared to those living in more remote areas. Corresponding M-H RR (plus 95% CI) were 1.66 (1.17–2.36), 1.24 (1.06–1.44) in females, and 1.55 (1.15–2.10), 1.32 (1.15–1.52) in males.
Conclusions: The study results suggest an association between residential proximity to the regional IP and increased mortality rates in the Negev Bedouin population. These findings have been accepted by the authorities as an issue for community health protection.
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