Shocked by their own conclusions, researchers from the University of California released a study last week showing that exhaust fumes from school buses were leaking inside the passenger cabins, exposing schoolchildren to significantly higher levels of pollutants than passersby on the streets below.
“In a single day, a child riding a school bus will breathe in anywhere from seven to 70 times more exhaust from that bus than a typical Los Angeles resident will inhale from all school bus emissions in the area,” reported Julian Marshall, the Berkeley researcher who led the study of six school buses in and around Los Angeles.
To exacerbate the problem, the vast majority of school buses, like other big rigs, run on diesel fuel, which generates emissions with twice the cancer potency of gasoline-powered engines. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the particulates, or soot, in diesel exhaust cause a host of health problems, including irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; heartburn; headaches and lightheadedness; and asthma and lung disease.
Marshall expressed hope that the findings would spur leaders into enacting more stringent standards. “Because so many children ride school buses, reducing the emissions of these vehicles would give policymakers more bang for their buck than the same reduction of emissions from other diesel vehicles, such as an 18-wheeler or a construction truck,” he concluded.