Healthy Environment, Strong Communities, Accountable Government

School Bus Alert

Diesel Fuel School Buses Harm Children’s Health
Urge Clean Fuel School Buses

Diesel fuel contains several carcinogens including benzene which harm children’s health. However, alternative “cleaner” fuels are available today. Unfortunately, every day of the school year, most children are transported to and from school in old, polluting, diesel-run school buses. Diesel can trigger asthma attacks, cause respiratory ailments in children and one study showed that levels of diesel emissions are up to 8 times greater inside the bus than average levels in outside air. Long Island has a 7% rate of asthma among children as opposed to a 5% national average.

Recent Studies on Air & Health

In a paper entitled, the Health Effects of Air Pollution On Children, Michael T. Kleinman, Ph.D., writes: “If [children’s lung] cells are damaged [by ozone and particulates], then the lung may not achieve its full growth and function as a child matures to adulthood… .” (Univ. of CA, Irvine, 2000.)

A Canadian study (Newsday, May 14, 2004) showed that soot in air can even cause genetic damage that may be passed on to offspring.

Nassau and Suffolk Counties are also designated non-attainment areas for ozone (O3) formation in our air under the Federal Clean Air Act. Ozone at ground level can reduce lung capacity and, in extreme cases, can make it hard to breathe. People with existing lung diseases--asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema--are particularly vulnerable to the respiratory effects of ozone.

The Neighborhood Network is calling for local schools to phase out old polluting buses and replace them with the better alternatives that exist now.

In addition to health impacts, fossil fuels such as diesel also release “greenhouse gases” such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides which contribute to smog formation and climate change.

A recent study found that as dark particles from diesel drift onto glacial ice, they melt the ice faster than normal. This contributes to sea level rise which directly impacts Long Island.

The storage tank for compressed natural gas on new bus at Long Beach school

WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?

  • Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses run much cleaner than diesel and are supported by Keyspan’s 4 fueling stations on L.I.
  • Diesel buses should have particulate exhaust filters, combined with ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. This can reduce emissions by 90%.
  • Biodiesel made wholly or partially from vegetable oil is commercially available and is currently in use by several New York municipalities.
  • Hybrid technology is becoming available for buses, & greatly reduces fuel usage.

These cleaner solutions generally cost more initially, as opposed to cheap diesel fuel, so NY State support is key to paying the higher up-front costs of these cleaner buses.

Take Action!

While school districts are ultimately responsible for deciding on buses, they may not have the funds to retrofit or replace every bus. Our NY State legislators must provide the funding incentives for converting to natural gas, biodiesel, fuel cell buses, and/or hybrid engines, or choosing low sulfur diesel with exhaust filters, all of which are currently in use in many sectors.

Governor Pataki stated in his State of the State address a goal of making every new school bus a clean fuel vehicle. Through April 2004, NY State did have a Clean Air School Bus Program administered through NYSERDA (NY State Energy Research & Development Authority) which distributed $5 million to 74 school districts around the state for retrofits, but any new funding for this is dependent on the new state budget. Schools may also apply for funding through the local Clean Cities program in Bay Shore. Parents need to help support these efforts for new alternative fuel buses, and retrofitting older buses.

Here is a sample letter you can write to urge the State to continue its incentives for retrofitting or replacing diesel school buses:

Sample Letter to Your State Legislator

Dear Senator/Assemblyperson_______

The exhaust from diesel fuel used in school buses is contributing to air pollution and potentially affecting the health of children in my school district. Long Island has a 7% rate of childhood asthma and many studies show the detrimental effects of soot, ranging from respiratory disease to even cancer. Meanwhile several better alternatives are currently available: natural gas, low sulfur diesel, exhaust filters, biodiesel, and/or hybrid engines.

I urge you to support efforts for NY State to fund the Clean Air School Bus Program which offers financial incentives to schools for this purpose.

Please write to me, indicating the actions you are taking to reduce diesel bus pollution. Thank you for leading the way.

Yours,

Click here to find your State Legislators' contact information.

 

Neighborhood Network
7180 Republic Airport, East Farmingdale, NY 11735 Tel: (631) 963-5454
Advocates for Long Island's Environment