Forum: Schools must stop their school buses from idling — it’s the law
Environment and Human Health, Inc, (EHHI) conducted a research study in 2001-02 that monitored school children for their diesel exhaust exposures when on their school buses. The researchers found that small particulates were often five to 10 times higher on the buses than average levels measured at the 13 fixed-site monitoring stations in Connecticut. As well, levels of fine particles and black carbon were higher when buses were idling with doors or windows opened; when buses moved through intense traffic; when buses followed other diesel vehicles; and especially when buses were queued to load or unload students while idling.
The Diesel exhaust on school buses was found to be often 10 times above the outside air. Diesel exhaust is known to be harmful because it is comprised of small particles of carbon and a mixture of gases, including benzene, formaldehyde, and 1,3- butadiene. The National Toxicology Program and the U.S. EPA, have designated the components of diesel exhaust to cause inflammation and irritation of airways, as well as being a human carcinogen.
Children’s airways are not yet fully developed and have a smaller diameter than those of adults. Therefore, it is especially difficult for asthmatic children — with restricted airways — to clear the very fine particles and gases inhaled deeply within their lungs. Asthma rates in Connecticut schools have been found to range anywhere from 3 percent to 20 percent.
When the school bus research report was shown to the Connecticut Legislature, they passed a law requiring school buses not to idle when they let children off at school in the morning or load them in the afternoon to take them home. The only exception is if the outside temperature drops below 20 degrees.
Yesterday, on Jan. 22, the temperature reached the unusual height of 50 degrees, yet school buses were idling in the afternoon at the Mary L. Tracy elementary school in Orange as the buses waited to load the school children to bring them home.
Idling school buses in Connecticut is against the law. It is a motor vehicle offence. The law states, “Any person who violates any provision of this section shall, for a first offense, be deemed to have committed an infraction and for each subsequent offense shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars.”
For the sake of our children’s health, school buses must obey the law and stop idling. Our schools need to be vigilant and report the idling to their school bus companies and explain it is against the law to idle. Schools can also report it to the police, as idling of school buses is a motor vehicle violation.