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Ohio Research Shows "No Idling" Zones Help with Air Pollution at Schools

PHOTO: Bus and car traffic isn't the only danger to children outside of schools  health researchers say idling vehicles also can cause a significant amount of air pollution. Photo credit: morguefile.com
PHOTO: Bus and car traffic isn't the only danger to children outside of schools health researchers say idling vehicles also can cause a significant amount of air pollution. Photo credit: morguefile.com
January 30, 2014

CINCINNATI – Turn those engines off when you're sitting near a school waiting to pick up children.

Idling school buses and other vehicles can pose a significant health risk to youngsters.

Dr. Patrick Ryan and other researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital studied the air quality at four schools before and after an anti-idling campaign.

He says after the initiative, at the school with the most buses, airborne particulate matter (PM) decreased by 76 percent, and carbon decreased 63 percent.

"One of the schools had more than 40 buses a day,” he relates. “Simply by implementing an anti-idling campaign, we can significantly reduce both PM 2.5 concentrations outside of the school, elemental carbon levels, and the total number of particles in the air."

Prior to the anti-idling campaign, the air quality measurements exceeded normal community levels at three of the four schools.

Ryan adds that three pounds of pollution per month ends up in the air for every vehicle drop-off and pick-up at school.

He says the smaller pollution particles released by idling vehicles can be inhaled and cause serious health effects.

"Especially as they get into school-age and older children,” he explains. “The biggest area of concern is kids that already have asthma.

“Kids that have preexisting asthma tend to be more susceptible to triggers, of course, that could exacerbate that asthma."

Many schools try anti-idling campaigns to improve air quality, but until now, Ryan says, the impact of these efforts has been unknown.

"Just improving the general air quality near schools can have an impact, both on the exposures that the kids have while they're outside of the school – they're near a school, they're at recess – but also probably has, in many cases, some effect on the indoor air quality of those schools," he says.

A report about the research is published online in the journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH