PUTTING a child on a school bus shouldn't jeopardize his or her health. But asthma and other breathing problems can be aggravated by school bus diesel engine emissions. The Ohio Environmental Council wants to curtail that, and it's doing so by linking up with several school districts to reduce pollution.
Some districts already deserve credit for trying on their own to reduce how much their buses pollute the air. Two districts near Columbus are setting the pace. Upper Arlington buses use soy-based diesel fuel, and the district sets limits on how long buses can idle. Hilliard city schools have six new buses that use low-sulfur fuel, even though it costs about 25 cents more per gallon than diesel.
Some better-off districts have a little more financial freedom to do something about the problem, but purchasing new pollutant-free buses isn't an easy option for most. The new buses cost about $35,000 more than conventional ones.
These days, it is more likely that schools will legitimately complain that their tight budgets prevent them from doing much about these dirty fumes. Still, there are steps almost all districts can take to decrease the adverse effects of toxic exhaust fumes, such as modifying buses' exhaust filters and switching to cleaner fuels.
To that end, the Environmental Council has agreed to help several central Ohio districts seek grants to reduce pollution.
It might seem simple enough to tell a school bus driver to not let the bus idle, but that's a tough balancing act, especially this time of year, when the buses need to be kept warm. Emissions can still be reduced, however, by shutting off the engines when drivers face long waits. In fact, the council has provided some schools with "No Idle Zones" signs to post where buses can shut down the engines.
This is particularly worrisome because children rely on school buses to transport them not only to school but to a wide range of other activities as well. They shouldn't have to contend with toxic air.