Diesel emissions can cause asthma, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses. So why are we still using outdated diesel buses — and why are we letting them idle and ‘caravan’ near school grounds? On Healthy Schools Day 2019, parents, school staff, and school boards are taking action to clean up our air, protect our kids, and make the switch to cleaner technologies.
Diesel Emissions on School Grounds
Older school buses release diesel emissions — which are not only greenhouse gases (GHGs) and a contributor to climate change, but a known carcinogen. That means students who play, gather, or line-up beside idling buses are often exposed to fumes that increase their risk of developing lung cancer, asthma, allergies, and heart problems, as well as central nervous system and reproductive and developmental effects (read the human health risk assessment for diesel exhaust from Health Canada to learn more).
This isn’t just about a few lungfuls of air, either. By the time kids graduate high school, it’s estimated that they can spend up to 2,000 hours exposed to these emissions. If buses line up or idle near school air intakes (i.e., where clean air enters the buildings), indoor airways can be contaminated as well.
And while young students are especially vulnerable to outdoor and indoor air quality issues due to their body size and the amount of time they spend outdoors, parents, teachers, and other staff are certainly not immune, making this an issue that can affect the entire school community.
Solutions for Cleaner Air
On April 4, 2019, schools and school boards across the country are making changes to schedules and practices immediately. Here’s how:
Schools can evaluate bus zone locations and re-locate if they are near air intake points. Custodians can change when they draw fresh air into schools to avoid times of heavy traffic. Routines can always be re-organized to avoid buses caravanning and idling. And teachers, custodians, and school staff and administration can also advocate for better systems with school boards and decision-makers.
Likewise, school boards can choose invest in cleaner technologies (like electric buses) and ensure more advanced emission control techniques are in use (for example, electric heaters can keep windows thawed and buses warm without the need for idling). Boards can also retrofit and/or phase out older buses, and grant contracts only to companies with the highest-ranked emissions technologies (or ‘best-in-class’ certifications). Bus drivers can also receive training to remind them that idling is not only wasteful, but destructive to people and the environment.
What You Can Do for Healthy Schools Day
Even if you’re not directly involved with a school right now, you can still participate. Here are three easy ways you can get involved:
- Share this blog post on social media, or share other messaging from @HealthySchoolsDayCanada (Facebook), @CPCHE_info (Twitter), and @healthyschoolsday (Instagram).
- Talk with parents, neighbours, and your local school staff and affiliates (i.e., teachers, custodians, school boards, and elected representatives) about how we can keep our kids safe. Head to HealthySchoolsDay.ca for more information.
- Share this poster (below) with your local community, online or in-person, to learn the top four ways to reduce children’s exposure to diesel bus emissions.
Scout Environmental is a proud partner of Healthy Schools Day — right alongside organizations like Health Canada,
the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment, the Canadian Child Care Federation, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Environmental Health Institute of Canada, Pollution Probe, Toronto Public Health, and several more.
— Post by Spencer Gordon, Scout’s Digital Marketing Manager