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Riding a School Bus Harms Children's Brains

cleanschoolbus_sm.gifAs Clayton Cornell wrote on gas2.0, new research has shown that diesel fuel, besides being a hazard for lungs, is also hazardous for growing brains.

This is bad news for an especially susceptible population—children—who spend significant amounts of time in diesel buses. Twenty-four million children ride in diesel school buses each day, amounting to about one half-hour per child. Research has also shown that the level of diesel exhaust inside school buses is substantially higher than outside.

The new research measured the electrical signals in the volunteers’ brains with an electroencephalograph (EEG) during one hour of exposure to diesel fumes and for 1 hour after they left the room.

Diesel fumes began to affect brain activity within 30 minutes. The EEG recorded a stress response in the brain cortex that could affect information processing, including increased activity in the left frontal cortex. The effect continued to increase even after subjects left the room.

As involved parents we know that what impacts adults impacts children’s smaller bodies to a greater degree. This is particularly distressing when it involves the growing brain. More research is needed to determine the result but it certainly won’t be positive.

What can you do? Join the EPA is the Clean School Bus initiative.

Work with your school district or municipality to

  1. Reduce idling. School Buses spend a lot of time in idle mode waiting for children to board and disembark. More idling means more diesel fumes emitted. Information and forms are available at The National Idle Reduction Campaign site.
  2. Encourage retrofitting to reduce carbon emissions or to use cleaner, safer biodiesel fuel. Information can be found here.
  3. Purchase new buses that emit fewer toxins into the air. About one-third of all diesel school buses now in service were built before 1990. Pre-1990 buses have been estimated to emit as much as six times more pollution as new buses that were built starting in 2004 and as much as sixty times more pollution as buses that meet the 2007 standards There are a variety of options for cleaner vehicles.

Check with your school district to see what type of buses they use now. Work with them to develop safer options. And keep your children off buses as much as possible. Sometimes the less eco option (driving your child to school) is the healthier one.)


  1. Makes me glad I declined the option to have my son taken to his speech therapy on a school bus. We only have one car, so planning around it is tough, but worth it.

    Although I believe most of the school buses in my area are pretty new by the look of them. So it might not be as bad.

  2. Lee Smith says:

    Great, now the few remaining kids that take the bus to school can have their parents drive them instead. Instead of one bus with 50 kids, we can have 50 moms driving their own cars to school.

  3. This is terrible scare tactics. Please visit the original report and you will see that there is little science in the experiment. The journalist is reporting on a report of a paper that reached only a HYPOTHESIS and no conclusion that was reported in a non-refereed journal.

    this reporter actually claims that the report on Gas2.0 says that children were in the study and that the study show that it effects child growth. Both statements are false making the entire premise false.

    Gas2.com seems to be a shill of the status quo. They make reports that say Bio fuels are not the answer there for gas must be good.

    Beware of this report and any conclusion from gas2.com. Do your own research. See for your self.

  4. Thanks for your comments.

    Noway, unfortunately, this study DID appear in a peer reviewed, referred journal, Particle and Fiber Technology (referenced in the original article).

    As always in scientific journals, papers are submitted and go through a peer review process where methodology and conclusions are vetted. In scientific journals, published papers always focus on a hypothesis. This study does recommend that follow up research be conducted to explore the issue further as I’m sure it will be, as this is a hot issue.

    Our job here at Green Options, as at any media outlet, is to raise issues about which people should be concerned. That sometimes means looking beyond the news to the next logical questions…the “what if.”

    I think Gas 2.0 did an excellent job of raising an important issue, one that I, as a parent, want to know. My research beyond the orignial article brought me to the EPA site where I found significant support for changing out diesel school buses, which makes me think this is an issue that we, as parents need to address.

    My job here was to bring this information to a wider audience. Now, it’s out there with the many parents who read this blog. Let’s discuss it!

    BTW- I agree with Lee – – “Great, now the few remaining kids that take the bus to school can have their parents drive them instead. Instead of one bus with 50 kids, we can have 50 moms driving their own cars to school.”

  5. You apparently are not a scientist. Gas2.0 says “The researchers hypothesize that the effects of diesel exhaust could be caused by nanoparticles slowly penetrating the brain or affecting brain signaling. ”

    A HYPOTHESIS is what you make before you make an experiment. Then you test it. Then you make conclusions.

    Their test exposed subjects to air and to diesel fumes and measured stress levels. While I agree that the researchers said stress accumulated and continued past the exposure, they continue to say that nanoparticles have something to do with the stress.

    Their experiment did not test their hypothesis. The subjects were exposed to fresh air and diesel fumes. If they want to blame nanoparticles on the stress then they have to do a proper experiment. 4 exposures are needed to properly identify the stressor. 1) plain air 2) diesel fumes unfiltered (as they did) 3) diesel fumes with the particulates removed and 4) plain air with the particulates added.

    If you get a stress condition from items 2 AND 4 then you can reach their conclusion. Without the other 2 controlled situations, you could also reach the conclusion that it was the nitrogen or sulfur oxides in the fumes that caused the stresses.

    This is bunk science and bunk reporting.

    Apparently your job is to mislead and scare people who do not know how to question “scientific reporters.”

  6. In your opening sentence,”As Clayton Cornell wrote on gas2.0, new research has shown that diesel fuel, besides being a hazard for lungs, is also hazardous for growing brains.” You say that it is hazardous for growing brains. Clayton Cornell said nothing of growing brains. The Gas2.0 article said nothing of growing brains. The original article said nothing of growing brains. You made the connection, you are not a scientist and cannot make that leap.

    More egregiously, you said,” diesel fuel” in your opening statement. None of the articles referred to place blame on diesel fuel. This is your mistake

    What I am objecting to is that all of the reports that are citing this article, you and Gas2.0 are focusing on the conjecture of the scientists about nanoparticles and oxidization stresses are the sources. They have proven nothing about nanoparticles and Gas2.0 is yelling it from the tops of mountains that soot is to blame. And you are trying to use their sterile results to insight your readers into believing a false conclusion.

    The conclusion of the article is that even an hour of exposure has a longer term and continued after effect from the short exposure. Yes, this is a big deal. Is it because of particulates as Gas2.0 says? We don’t know, no experiment was performed to prove it one way or the other. Is this significant to the development of a child’s brain? Not because this paper says so.

    If you want to inform your audience, do it right and present the facts as facts and conjecture with the appropriate response.

  7. So essentially all of those who grew up on riding school buses have brain damage? I find that hard to believe as I grew up in a working class rural district where everyone took the bus to and from school – and you know, my graduating class from 1991 seems to have the same basic mix of achieving and non-achieving people as any other.

    I’m in agreement that this is scare-mongering and not grounded in the actual study. Getting back into the car not only does more damage to the environment, but encourages even more nannying of children that is robbing them of the independence and autonomy that they need. So the kid now gets driven door to door? That’s not healthy for our ecology, our neighbourhoods or our social development.

  8. I really do not think biodiesel is the answer to our oil crisis. The land it would take to grow all the plants needed to make the fuel would be enormous, not to mention we would be growing FOOD, that could be used to help those suffering from hunger. Diesel is actually more environmentally friendly than hybrid cars in my opinion. The nickel mined for hybrid batteries is a very polluting process and there is no way to recycle them once they are broken. So what will we do in the future with all of the batteries from hybrid cars? I’m not saying I have an answer, but i think my next car will be a diesel car that can run on homemade bio-diesel made from used vegetable oil.

  9. im looking to find out how long a child can run a school bus .i em a school bus driver and some of my kids are on the bus for a hour and ahalf and i don’t feel that is rigt at all .i said something to the school and they said dael with it .

  10. GMNightmare says:

    Along the lines with others, you forgot to give any proof that being on a bus exposes you to more diesel fumes. Furthermore, it failed to give precise problems with it and… “including increased activity in the left frontal cortex” is positive no? Silly.

    There are so many holes everywhere here…


  1. […] district is only following a mandate to use biodiesel, I commend them for doing so.  The truth is school buses are very inefficient and toxic, and a recent regulation in California was supposed to reduce emissions by retrofitting old buses […]

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