THEGREENGROK    Statistically Speaking

Statistical Grok: School Buses and Pollution

by Bill Chameides | August 29th, 2008
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 2 comments

 


School buses can expose children to some 40 hazardous pollutants. New buses are cleaner, but with so many old buses still in use communities should look to retrofits that slash pollution levels or new buses.

Numbers can tell stories. School buses — mass transit for students — are overall better for the environment than millions of cars transporting kids to school. But we need to clean these buses up — and I don’t mean taking them to the car wash.

 

Approximate number of children that ride buses to school:
25 million

About how many hazardous substances (ranging from smog-forming pollution to soot) affect the air quality of diesel school buses:
40

How much more air per pound of body weight children breathe than adults:
50%

Estimated number of cancers diesel exhaust is responsible for nationwide:
125,000

Estimated number of children* that may develop cancer from the air they inhale while on a school bus:
23 to 46 out of every million

 

When during a school bus ride levels of fine particulates and black carbon are highest:
when buses are queued and idling

What idling for one hour a day costs in terms of engine wear and fuel use, respectively:
1,260 miles per year and half a gallon per day

Approximate number of U.S. school buses in operation:
670,000

How much cleaner a bus retrofitted with pollution filters is compared to a typical bus:
90%

Number of retrofitted buses:
more than 12,000

Estimated number of pre-1990 school buses on the road:
75,000

How much cleaner model year 2007 school buses are than those built before 1990:
more than 90%


* Who ride school buses an hour or two each day

 

SOURCES

American School Bus Council –
www.americanschoolbuscouncil.org/index.php?page=faq

Bus Registrations, 2006 –
www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs06/htm/mv10.htm

Environment and Human Health, Inc. –
www.ehhi.org/reports/diesel/index.shtml and www.ehhi.org/reports/diesel/summary.shtml

“Diesel Bus Emissions Prompt School Officials Into Action,” Environmental Bulletin (A Maine Environmental Bulletin for Maine Citizens and School Officials) –
maine.gov/dep/air/school/docs/Newsletter%20Fall_02.pdf

“A Multi-City Investigation of the Effectiveness of Retrofit Emissions Controls in Reducing Exposures to Particulate Matter in School Buses,” Clean Air Task Force –
www.catf.us/publications/reports/CATF-Purdue_Multi_City_Bus_Study.pdf

Natural Resources Defense Council –
www.nrdc.org/air/transportation/qbus.asp

Regulatory Announcement, Environmental Protection Agency –
www.epa.gov/otaq/regs/hd2007/frm/f00057.pdf

Replacing Old School Buses – What School Districts Should Consider, Environmental Protection Agency –
www.epa.gov/otaq/schoolbus/replacement.htm

Selecting Buses with the Most Up-to-Date Environmental Controls and Safety Measures,” Environmental Protection Agency –
www.epa.gov/otaq/schoolbus/selecting.htm

“American School Bus Council Encourages School Age Children to Ride the School Bus,” Apr 21, 2008, Reuters –
www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS183470+21-Apr-2008+PRN20080421

Further Reading

“Diesel Solutions,” Puget Sound Clean Air Agency –
www.pscleanair.org/programs/dieselsolutions/default.aspx

National Clean Diesel Campaign, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) –
www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/

Clean School Bus, EPA –
www.epa.gov/otaq/schoolbus/index.htm

Replacing Old School Buses – What School Districts Should Consider, EPA –
www.epa.gov/otaq/schoolbus/replacement.htm

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2 Comments

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  1. Daniel Wedgewood
    Sep 10, 2008

    Your argument strongly suggests that there would be enormous health benefits (long term, at least) from retrofitting. Why wouldn’t the health insurers pay to have the buses fixed, since it would save them huge amounts of money later on? Many insurers, I think, already pay subscribers for exercise programs and other kinds of preventive measures… – Dan” title=”Why aren’t the insurers paying?

    • Erica Rowell
      Sep 11, 2008

      Dr. Chameides responds – Dan, With regard to insurers paying for retrofits: great idea. Why don’t they do it? Good question. And the government is doing things. There is a federal program to help states and municipalities retrofit school buses and there are a number of NGOs working to make the retrofits happen faster. Some think things are proceeding fast enough; others don’t. Your call on where you think things stand and what to do about it.” title=”Insurers paying for retrofits

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