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
- 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.
- Encourage retrofitting to reduce carbon emissions or to use cleaner, safer biodiesel fuel. Information can be found here.
- 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.)