Why are school buses a concern?
School buses are the safest way for children to get to school. About 24 million children ride a school bus every day, and most students spend an hour and a half each weekday in a school bus.
Because almost all school buses run on diesel fuel, children are exposed to the pollution in diesel exhaust. Children can be exposed to diesel exhaust if they ride in a bus, or if they play or wait in school bus loading zones where buses are idling with their engines running. Exhaust from buses that idle outside schools can also pollute the air inside the school.
Diesel exhaust contains many harmful air pollutants, including particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and other chemicals that can cause cancer. Exposure to diesel exhaust can cause respiratory problems, asthma, allergies, and lung damage. Children are more affected by the harmful effects of air pollution because they breathe at a faster rate than adults, and their lungs are still developing.
Older school buses built before 1977 may not meet either current safety standards or environmental standards.
Children can reduce their exposure to diesel exhaust from school buses by sitting toward the front of the bus, and keeping a bus window open if the weather allows. They can also avoid playing outside near a school bus loading zone if buses are there with their engines idling.
There are efforts to “clean up” the impact of school bus exhaust. Some school systems have developed anti-idling policies requiring buses to shut off their engines when idling and some school buses are being retrofitted with cleaner engines.
Web Links from MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)
Clean School Bus USA home page (Environmental Protection Agency)
School Bus Fleet Experiences (Dept. of Energy)
Tomorrow's Buses for Today's Children (Environmental Protection Agency)
What You Should Know About Diesel Exhaust and School Bus Idling (Environmental Protection Agency)
What You Should Know About Reducing Diesel Exhaust from School Buses (Environmental Protection Agency)
Chemicals and School Buses
Are these chemicals in MY environment?
Volatile Organic Compounds
Last Updated: November 10, 2008