EPA has classified diesel exhaust as a probable human carcinogen. Air pollution from diesel vehicles has health implications for everyone, but children are more susceptible to this pollution because their respiratory systems are not fully developed. Diesel exhaust typically contains particulate matter (PM), hydrocarbons (HC), and carbon monoxide (CO). Exposure to fine particles in school bus exhaust can result in increased frequency of childhood diseases, such as asthma.
At school yards, idling school buses release emissions directly into the breathing zone of children. As children line up to board an idling bus, they are exposed to the vehicles emissions at the most concentrated levels. Limiting the amount of idling time not only reduces exposure of school students to the harmful pollutants in diesel exhaust, but it also improves air quality.
A 2002 study conducted by researchers from Yale University clearly shows that students exposure to various concentrations of exhaust emissions increases dramatically while waiting to board and while riding on school buses. This study links the increased exposure directly to idling school buses. The Yale studys primary recommendation was that school buses prohibit unnecessary idling.
EPA created a program to address emissions from school buses called the Clean School Bus USA Program. Suggested options for controlling emissions from school buses include implementing anti-idling programs and installing retrofits on buses. Retrofitting buses with pollution control devices can produce significant results. For example, installation of diesel oxidation catalysts can reduce emissions of particulate matter (PM) by 20 percent and emissions of hydrocarbons (HC) by 50 percent. Installation of diesel particulate matter filters can reduce emissions of PM, HC, and CO by 60 to 90 percent. More information on these technologies.
In 2002 DES teamed up with the New Hampshire School Transportation Association (NHSTA) to launch a voluntary initiative to protect school children and bus drivers from excessive exposure to exhaust emissions from school buses. As part of the initiative, fleet managers and school bus drivers throughout New Hampshire were encouraged to adopt policies and practices to reduce school bus engine idling time whenever possible.
DES and NHSTA developed numerous materials to reach out to school transit providers.
Outreach to school transportation providers and school superintendents was accomplished during 2002 and 2003 through mailings, newsletters, workshops, bus driver training and award programs. Special Clean Air Driver magnets were given to all drivers to display in their buses to show that they have taken the pledge to reduce school bus idling.
New Hampshire's anti-idling campaign has been a huge success!
Community leaders and individuals can help support this initiative by talking with students, parents and community groups about the dangers of breathing diesel exhaust; by writing articles; or by attending school board or PTA meetings to raise awareness of the issue.
School bus drivers can make a significant impact on the health of their passengers and their own health by limiting engine idling whenever possible. Reducing idling also saves fuel, reduces engine wear and tear, and saves school bus companies and school districts thousands of dollars each year.
Adobe Acrobat Reader format. Download a free reader from Adobe.