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#38- Back to School Basics-No Bus Idling September 2, 2008

Filed under: healthy home,healthy school — michelleodonoghue @ 11:19 am
Tags: , , ,

One of the things that first got me started on this idea of chemical – free living was an article I read that discussed the amount of pollutants the average school-age child was subjected to in a day. It was something like 200 chemicals in the day, beginning with the most noxious as they got onto the school bus in the morning. As buses sit and idle at the bus stop, diesel fumes enter through the windows and doors. Diesel fumes are laden with chemicals, some known carcinogens. The first studies on this, performed by Yale scientists who noticed something a little “off” in children as they entered their school day, tested blood levels as children entered school and when they got home. The chemical levels in the children’s blood was sky high at these times of day as they inhaled diesel fumes on the way to and from school. Picture this: school pick up, all buses lined up front to back, engines running (sometimes 30 minutes or more as they wait for the chidren), windows open to keep bus cool, school doors open as people coming in and out, and diesel fumes everywhere—-in buses, in building, in lungs. There is NO safe level of diesel fumes in children’s bloodstreams (or adults).

There is a really easy quick- fix to this (the expensive, messy, not -even -great option is to change out all of the diesel engines to regular gasoline–still lousy for environment– but hopefully we’ll be running on electric or hydrogen soon enough anyway! )If your bus company and school district insists on a no-idling policy, buses must turn off their engines at bus stops and in front of school buildings and at bus stops. Once all children are loaded the engines may be turned back on. Home they go, lungs diesel-free. Small, tasteful signs that say “this is an idle-free zone” are all that is needed on school grounds. Buses keep a small sign velcroed to dashboard that says “we are idle-free”. Just in case bus companies need convincing, in this time of impossibly high gas prices, this saves the bus companies HUGE amounts of money in fuel.

(BTW, in cold weather, the policy allows for 5 minutes at a time of running the bus. Important to make sure school doors and windows are closed, the fumes can get in everywhere.)

We have worked on this policy at our school. As with any change, there are always some logistics involved. We needed to set up a new entry and dismissal policy, so that all buses could line up, children walked to bus “stop” and then all buses turn engines on once children are loaded. Believe it or not, the worst offenders in the no-idling policy are parents. They just “run” into school for 20 minutes while they leave their massive SUV’s hanging out in the parking lot.

For some great material on this and very practical way to deal with your school administration, bus companies, and parents, go to grassrootsinfo.org. The people running this are experts in implementing green, child-safe change. Their website has lots of info about this topic and so many others and sells a$15 binder that spells out the idling policies and many more healthy changes in a really manageable format.

If your child has asthma, a no-idling policy could dramatically improve his/her day as it removes so many potential triggers into their lungs.

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