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School Bus Pollution Report Card 2006
Sarah Rich, 25 May 06

schoolbus-hi.jpg The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report yesterday evaluating each state on average school bus emissions and the efforts currently underway to retrofit buses and ameliorate the situation.

Each state received a letter grade (A B, C, or D) for estimated tailpipe emissions of soot, which warrants the most concern because of its potential to cause toxic “hot spots”—areas of higher exposure for children in or near buses. The emission performance of a diesel bus equipped with a diesel particulate filter (DPF, or “soot trap”) established the baseline for our highest grade (A), which no states came close to achieving. We distributed the remaining grades on a curve.

In addition to the grade for tailpipe soot, another grade was given for smog-forming pollution, and a third for cleanup efforts, both ranked on a scale of "Good," "Above Average," "Average," and "Poor." Those states who've thus far made no effort to clean up bus emissions received an incomplete. No state achieved a "Good" for their smog pollution, and the only state to be ranked "Good" for cleanup programs was California, though that was offset by a C for soot and a "Poor" for smog pollution. The only states to score better than the national average across the board were Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, and New York.

According to the New England Asthma Regional Council:

Even though school buses are one of the safest ways for children to get to and from school, children can be exposed to harmful diesel emissions when riding school buses. Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe 50% more air per pound of bodyweight than adults.

The American Lung Association says:

* Asthma is the most common chronic disorder in childhood, currently affecting an estimated 6.2 million children under 18 years; of which 4 million suffered from an asthma attack or episode in 2003.
* In 2003, asthma accounted for an estimated 12.8 million lost school days in children. It is the leading cause of school absenteeism attributed to chronic conditions.
* Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15. Close to 39 percent of all asthma hospital discharges in 2002 were in those under 15, however only 21% of the U.S. population was less than 15 years old.

Of course, retrofits are available, including the use of B100 biodiesel, since most school buses currently run on diesel. The UCS recommends a "Five R" plan for resolving some of the issues here: retrofitting, refueling, replacement, repair, and reduced idling. Combining regulations for retrofits and reduction with implementation of emissions-control technologies is the only way to achieve some of the lofty goals set out for improved buses over the next 5-10 years. UCS also encourages more state-level intiatives, along with strengthened federal standards on air quality in general. Hopefully seeing this information in the form of a clean and simple report card, and in the context of state comparisons, will incentivize state agencies to start performing better on all three counts in order to perform better before the next grades go out.

See the full report here.

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Minnesota, D, Average, Poor

My apologies. We can be a little backward here sometimes.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 25 May 06

Man. California trumped Washington State in the soot catagory, and tied us in the others.

That's embarassing.

Posted by: Mel. on 25 May 06

Here's what I have to deal with:

Arizona, D, Above Average, Poor.

I was actually surprised about that "above average." Then again, the rest of the state isn't quite as terribly sprawling and filled with cars as Phoenix.

Posted by: Bolo on 26 May 06



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