Continued Support of Successful School Bus Program Is Critical to Health of Children, Drivers

Dec. 19, 2008

Continued Support of Successful School Bus Program Is Critical to Health of Children, Drivers

Statement of Rachel McClure, Environmental Projects Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Because of an innovative program run by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), more than 80 independent school districts and charter schools will receive grants this year to retrofit more than 2,300 school buses with pollution reduction technology.

In fact, the TCEQ announced this week that it had received far more applications that it could fill. While $9.3 million was made available for the retrofit program, the requests during the second grant round, which ended this month, totaled more than $13 million. This builds on the success of the first grant round earlier this year, which provided 51 school districts with funds to retrofit 2,600 buses.

Public Citizen applauds the success of this initiative and urges the Legislature to continue supporting this important program. This is a win for air quality, a win for school districts and most importantly, a win for the health of our children and bus drivers.

Every day, children and school bus drivers are exposed to nearly 40 toxic substances from bus exhaust fumes, which make their way into the bus cabin and the air around the bus. Levels of particulate matter in and around school buses can be five to 10 times higher than normal outside levels. School buses can become a “hot spot” of pollution exposure for school children because they breathe more air per pound of body weight, and their lungs are still developing. These pollutants contribute to a laundry list of adverse health effects.

Because the agency allocated all funds, a waiting list was created for the additional 41 schools that applied for grant money. No district that wants to participate should be left out. It is imperative that Texas lawmakers make the health and safety of our children a top priority by continuing the funding and expansion of this project.

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