Taken from “What’s the Big Deal with Idling”
by Stephanie Hastings–President at Naperville for Clean Energy and Conservation
According to the U.S. EPA, the personal automobile is the single largest polluter. Motor vehicles are responsible for about half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the United States.
But what about when our cars are idling?
When our vehicles idle the combustion of fuel in our engines is incomplete. Incomplete combustion causes our vehicles to create more tail-pipe pollution than when our vehicles are traveling at normal speeds. Believe it or not, idling for just 20 minutes generates the same amount of hazardous emissions as driving nearly 320 miles!
It is safe to say vehicle emissions are unsafe and that unnecessary emissions are even more of a concern around schools. A Respiratory Health Specialist from Edward Hospital (Naperville, IL) spoke on the topic of vehicular emissions and this is a summary of what she had to say:
• Consistent exposure of vehicle emissions can cause a decrease in lung function, most commonly seen in elderly adults and children.
• As children grow, their lungs and lung function grow along with them and substances in the air they breathe can decrease the potential their lungs may achieve.
• Pound for pound of body weight, children breathe 50% more air than adults (e.g. breath at a faster rate)
• Children’s breathing zones are lower to the ground where exhaust tends to accumulate.
Again–because emissions are heavier than air and have the tendency to spill out onto the ground around our cars. Children’s breathing zones are not only closer to the ground than adults, but some schools’ “fresh” air intake vents are both low to the ground and in close proximity to where buses and vehicles line up during the drop-off and pickup procedure. In the cold winter months the heating units within each classroom control how much outside air is brought into the classroom. Illinois state law requires these units to pull in at least 10% of outside air at all times. Thus, contact with harmful pollutants and particulate matter can be present both near the street and inside the school’s classrooms.
Idling at school drop off and pick up wastes 1 gallon of gas per week per car and dumps 19 lbs. of CO2 into our air? According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (Florida Section) restarting a V6 vehicle consumes approximately the same amount of fuel as idling for five seconds. Therefore, idling is worse than restarting your car, so let’s all cut our engines whenever we can. It will not only improve the air quality in and around our school for the students and teachers, but it will also save us a little coin. And these days, keeping our kids healthy and saving money is a big deal.
Joe’s footnote: For readers of Jennifer Lance’s wonderful website, EcoChildsPlay, this article falls under the ‘preaching to the choir’ category. ECP readers are typically not the ones idling when (or even driving to) pick up their child(ren) at school. Therefore, as with any other informative article on ECP, share this with as many “others” 😉 as possible. This article would do well to be sent to PTA Presidents, principals, teachers, idlers, etc…
I see this all the time at our local elementary school. I dropped off/picked up my son at preschool five days a week last year, and regularly saw cars running for five or even ten minutes at a time. Parents had to go inside to drop off or collect their kids which usually takes a while, and their cars were left running the whole time. My husband got me a bike for Christmas, and we are looking forward to using that to take our son to school, instead!
There is also the matter of idling being illegal in many states with pretty substantial fines, and possible jail time. It would be reasonable for idling signage to be posted at schools.
See http://www.scribd.com/full/2170989?access_key=key-kh08z1d6vjn20b0t3tz for the American Transportation Research Institute’s Compendium of Idling Regulations.