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Diesel Fumes from Buses Very Bad for Children, especially inside the bus

USA: February 13, 2001

WASHINGTON - US environmentalists released a highly charged report yesterday alleging that children who ride to school on diesel-powered buses may be exposed to as much as four times more toxic exhaust than if they traveled in passenger cars.

The report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Coalition for Clean Air said more than 23 million children in the United States ride a bus to school.

"Children are especially sensitive to environmental hazards, yet they're the
ones getting dosed with diesel riding to school," said Gina Solomon, a NRDC senior scientist.

"The levels we measured on some of these buses both surprised and worried us. Worse still, we have reason to believe that these high levels are fairly typical."

The report said nearly 20 hours of sampling results on four school buses
produced dramatic results. Assuming bus rides totaling one or two hours per
day, 180 days per year for 10 years, the groups estimated the diesel exhaust
exposures are likely to result in an additional 23 to 46 cancer cases per
million children exposed.

This level of cancer risk is 23 to 46 times the level considered to pose a
significant cancer risk by the Environmental Protection Agency under the
federal Clean Air Act and the Food Quality Protection Act. Under
California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, it also could
trigger an obligation to provide warnings to children that they are being
exposed to a cancer-causing chemical.

The report, entitled "No Breathing in the Aisles: Diesel Exhaust Inside
School Buses," said the excess exhaust levels on the buses were more than
eight times the average levels found in the ambient air in California.

Researchers from NRDC, the U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health and the
Coalition for Clean Air rode rented school buses along elementary school bus routes in the Los Angeles area. They compared air quality inside the front and back of the bus and with windows open and closed.

They also tested air quality outside the bus and in a passenger car
traveling ahead of it. Buses were tested while idling, climbing or
descending hills, and traveling slowly with frequent stops.

NRDC said the vast majority of the nation's school bus fleets still run on
diesel fuel, but said there were other options for school districts to
consider, such as buses fueled by natural gas or propane.

Short-term fixes include keeping the windows open on the bus when possible and seating children closer to the front of the bus before seating children in the rear.

NRDC is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting public health and
the environment. The Coalition for Clean Air is a non-profit environmental
organization advocating clean air for California though responsible public
health policies.


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