The Toxins on the Bus Go Round and Round
Children who ride a diesel school bus may be exposed to four times the diesel exhaust as someone riding in a car behind the bus, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Coalition for Clean Air report found.
Called "No Breathing in the Aisles: Diesel Exhaust Inside School Buses", the report found excess exhaust levels inside buses were more than eight times the average levels found in ambient air in California. Petroleum-based diesel emissions are classified as a toxic carcinogen, consisting of more than 40 disease-causing chemicals, and the diesel exhaust levels on school buses were 23 to 46 times the level the EPA says poses a significant risk under the federal Clean Air Act and the Food Quality Protection Act. Exposure to untreated diesel exhaust can also be a factor in childhood respiratory illness.
Tests Inside and Outside Buses
Researchers from NRDC, the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health and the Coalition for Clean Air rented four school buses and drove them for a total of nearly 20 hours along school bus routes in the Los Angeles area.
They compared air quality inside the front and back of the bus and with the windows open and closed. They also tested air quality outside the bus and in a passenger car traveling ahead of it. Buses were tested while idling, climbing or descending hills, and traveling slowly with frequent stops.
"These monitoring results teach schools a tough lesson - they need to clean-up their bus fleets in order to protect the health of their kids," said Gail Ruderman Feuer, NRDC senior attorney.
Diesel Exhaust Fumes Worsen Respiratory Conditions
Diesel exhaust is a major source of fine particles that can lodge in the lungs and worsen respiratory conditions, the report said.
Diesels also emit smog-forming oxides of nitrogen that have been linked to decreased lung function growth in children, whose faster breathing rate, less developed lungs, and immature immune systems leave them more susceptible to air pollution, the report added.
"Respiratory illness is now the #1 cause of missed school days in America!"
What can you do?
It is possible to convert our more than 400,000 buses to biodiesel. Contact your local school board member, politician, parent group, or news source and let them know that you support a healthy conversion of school busses to biodiesel to protect our children and bus drivers.