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Funding to Clean Up School Bus Pollution Is Critical

Sept. 17, 2008  

Funding to Clean Up School Bus Pollution Is Critical

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

Every day, children and bus drivers are exposed to a major health threat from the fine particle pollutants released from the exhaust of their diesel-powered school buses. It is commendable that the state is making grant money available to cash-strapped school districts to retrofit their buses with pollution-reduction technology. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will work with the school districts to decide which approved technologies might be appropriate.

School bus drivers and children 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.

Reducing the health impacts of air pollution to our school bus drivers and our school kids should be a state priority.

During the first grant cycle, Texas’ 51 school districts retrofitted about 2,600 buses. The second grant round is now available to applicants. Public Citizen strongly supports the state’s efforts and applauds the school districts for protecting school kids and bus drivers. We urge the state to continue to fund this program until all buses have been cleaned up.