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School Bus Emissions May Harm Children

An Idling Bus Can Cause An Addled Mind

By Stuart Lieberman, Esq.

Two years ago, California voters passed Proposition 40, the California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act. It’s another one of these Propositions for which California has become very famous. This was a good Proposition.

State law directed that substantial funding be allocated for the acquisition of “clean, safe, school buses for use in California’s public schools…” Translated: millions of dollars became available to purchase cleaner school buses.

Many health experts believe that our school busses may be producing excessive amounts of pollutants. In the U.S., approximately 24 million children ride school buses everyday, spending an average of an hour and a half each weekday in a bus.

Because children are particularly at risk to many environmental exposures, the EPA is urging school districts in the United States to take measures to make school buses more environmentally friendly. In particular, by reducing exhaust emissions and other fumes associated with bus operations.

School districts, such as some in California, are attempting to purchase cleaner buses. And that is a good move. Its good for the children, and its good for our air.

Also, the EPA is recommending that school districts attempt to eliminate unnecessary school bus idling, retrofit buses that remain in fleets with better emission control technologies or buses that use cleaner fuels, and replace the oldest buses in the fleet with less polluting buses.

Idling is identified to be a significant problem that can make children sick. Unnecessary school bus idling pollutes the air, wastes fuel and causes extra engine wear.

Idling buses can pollute the air in and around the buses. In addition, exhausts from buses that idle may enter school buildings through air intakes and open windows.

Diesel bus exhaust from excess idling can cause a health concern, especially for children who are lined up waiting to board the buses. That is not to mention the financial costs: idling buses waste fuel and money. Typical school bus engines burn about a half a gallon of fuel per hour of idling.

Here are some other suggestions:

  1. Assign cleanest buses and fleets to the longest routes,
  2. Inform drivers that following other buses too closely may contribute to higher concentrations of exhaust inside the bus. Drivers are encouraged not to caravan,
  3. Arrange bus departure times so that buses do not queue for lengthy periods,
  4. Encourage children to sit in the front of the bus if the bus is not full
  5. Examine the layout of the loading areas for schools, reconfiguring to reduce queuing and idling.

Finally, it is recommended that parents be advised to turn off their cars when they wait to pick up and drop off children. Schools should also prohibit delivery trucks from idling on grounds.

The information provided in this column is written by Stuart Lieberman,a practicing environmental attorney, and is for general information purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be used in place of legal advice.
Stuart Lieberman, Esq., and IRED.Com, Inc., will not accept any responsibilty for any reliance on the information in this column or any damages whatsoever resulting from reading this column.

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