This month you'll see all sorts of posts regarding back-to-school issues and environmentalism. I'm sure many of you are already sending your kids off to school with eco-friendly school supplies and healthy, organic lunches packaged in reusable containers. Additionally, many school districts are mostly on top of issues regarding lead in the drinking water of old school buildings and asbestos related problems.
But what about the enormous health and environmental impact of those yellow school buses? Over 99% of the U.S.'s 600,000 school buses run on diesel fuel, placing millions of children at risk each day.
Few districts seem to be doing anything regarding the inherent dangers of diesel school bus emissions. Regardless of whether or not you have kids in school this is a community issue and one that affects everyone living in it. Because the exhaust just doesn't harm kids but also other citizens that breathe it in. People with asthma or other lung issues are particularly susceptible to increased air pollution.
It's that time of year where the school buses are out in force, but it's also a good time to actually try to do something about it. Not all school districts have the money or the resources to switch to using biodiesel, but the more we ask the more they will listen. I'm sure all the grease being used in the school kitchens for those extremely healthy school lunches could be used for waste vegetable oil driven school buses. And, at the very least, you can request that the bus drivers do not idle and that they implement an idling reduction program.
So, where do you start? If it feels like one little voice isn't going to affect much change then getting parents together to demand clean school buses is one way to go. Discuss the issue with other parents while you are waiting to pick up your kids, at PTA meetings or even sending out information to your child's classroom email list.
Don't know what to say once you get organized? Well, here's a sample letter with some statistics for you to use to make your case. If you want to send it to your school district or local representatives, just replace the [XX] with the appropriate information for your region.
Dear Superintendent of Public Instruction,
As a parent and citizen of [XX], I am deeply concerned of the impact that [XX] city school buses have on the health of not only the children riders and bus drivers, but on the community as a whole. School bus emissions have been directly linked to problems such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, retarded lung development, and increased emergency room visits for respiratory illnesses. After long-term exposure, diesel exhaust can cause cancer.
Aside from the health issues resulting from school bus emissions, diesel exhaust also contains pollutants that contribute to ozone formation, smog, acid rain, and global climate change.
There are a number of changes that can be employed to reduce the amount of exhaust emitted from diesel school buses. From the obvious switchover to alternative fuel types such as biodiesel to policies reducing idling and technologies like diesel particulate traps and filters, it is imperative that our community look to reducing this very significant health and environmental threat.
Based on a 2001 study, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that, "for every one million children riding the school bus for 1 or 2 hours each day during the school year, 23 to 46 children may eventually develop cancer from the excess diesel exhaust they inhale on their way to and from school."
Please help protect our children and community by looking into making changes to the district's fleet of school buses. If you would like to learn more about the issues surrounding school bus diesel emissions as well as information regarding reducing idling and retrofitting school buses, please refer to the US EPA website (http://www.epa.gov/oms/schoolbus/index.htm). If steps are being made to reduce diesel emissions, I would like to be informed.
Thanks in advance for your consideration,
123 Main Street
Anytown, ST 12345
So, as your kids head back to school, take a moment out of your day to help address this very large problem so we can all breathe easier.