Photo by Kevindooley. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

If your child rides the bus to school in New York City, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) would like you to know that he or she is being exposed to "harmful pollution levels" during the daily ride. The EDF issued a report yesterday that calls on the NYC Department of Education to cut diesel soot pollution by 90 percent and suggests using diesel retrofit technologies to do so. On top of that, EDF recommends retiring the buses three years sooner than is now standard. And, if the Department does so, EDF says, it "could be using the largest, cleanest school bus fleet in the country within just a few years." It certainly will take a while to do so, because there are more than 7,000 public school buses in the city. A few other options from the ABG archives:

[Source: Environmental Defense Fund]


New Report Calls on NYC Dept. of Education to Cut School Bus Soot Pollution By 90%

Study Finds NYC Kids Often Exposed To Harmful Pollution Levels Inside School Buses

NEW YORK, Oct. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new study reveals that school children in New York City's five boroughs are too often exposed to potentially dangerous levels of pollution while riding public school buses. The study published today by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) reports that diesel pollution, which has been linked to a wide range of serious health problems in children including impaired brain development, can be found at levels five times higher inside New York City school buses than in the air outside.

The report, entitled "A Healthier Ride to School: Cleaning up New York City's Dirty Diesel School Buses," lays out a set of recommendations for the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to leverage recently received federal funds and upcoming 2010 school bus contracts to maximize clean air benefits, minimize costs and achieve a 90% soot pollution reduction with newly tested diesel retrofit technologies. The report stresses that even during times of budget cuts, this investment is well worth it: investments in diesel retrofits pay themselves back many times over in health benefits.

"New York City has one of the highest asthma rates in the country and children are disproportionately sickened by the kind of pollution diesel school buses generate," said Dr. John Balbus, EDF's chief health scientist and a member of EPA's Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee ( "By requiring diesel filter retrofits for newer buses and the retirement of the oldest buses, the city's Department of Education could be using the largest, cleanest school bus fleet in the country within just a few years. We simply owe it to our kids to make sure that their ride to school is as healthy as possible."

The report urges the city to lower the school bus retirement age from the current 19 years to 16 years for large buses if they have 90% effective tailpipe and engine retrofits installed. By comparison, New Jersey has a 12-year statutory retirement age for all school buses.

"The older the bus, the dirtier it is," continued Dr. Balbus. "Retiring the dirtiest buses sooner results in tremendous air quality and health benefits."

Although the DOE has retrofitted almost all large school buses with a 25% effective tailpipe filter, EDF is calling on the installation of 90% effective technology -- the diesel particulate filter. The report demonstrates that under Local Law 42, passed in 2005, 90% effective filters need to be installed to protect the health of New York City's children.

More than 7,000 public school buses transport approximately 138,000 New York City children every day. While school buses are the safest way to get around, the report finds that children are at particular risk of breathing harmful air both inside and outside of their buses. About 6,770 city public school buses are diesel-powered, which can lead to unhealthy air for children riders. The city's school bus fleet includes 2,700 small diesel-powered buses and more than 4,000 large diesel-powered buses serving general and special education school children. Diesel engines emit more than 40 toxic substances, including soot, unburned hydrocarbons and other harmful byproducts, many of which are known carcinogens.

The EDF report reveals that diesel emissions enter a school bus cabin from two sources: the engine and the tailpipe. Every time a school bus door opens, engine and tailpipe emissions are sucked into the vehicle through the open door. These emissions can also enter buses through open windows and even through the floorboard. Since air quality inside the bus can be five times worse than outside air, spending even a short amount of time on a school bus can lead to harmful exposure of high levels of air pollutants.

"Parents in the five boroughs should be particularly concerned because New York City asthma rates are twice the national average," said report co-author Isabelle Bodmer Silverman, a legal fellow for the Living Cities Program at Environmental Defense Fund ( "Cleaning up the city's public school bus fleet with new clean diesel technology filters will protect children with asthma and lower all children's risks of diseases including cancer. And reducing sick days is not just about kids' health, it helps their education, too."

The report anticipates air quality improvements and health benefits to school children and neighborhoods if these steps are adopted. EDF estimates that the installation of clean diesel retrofit technologies would amount to a $30 million investment over 10 years. EDF is urging the DOE to use $7.8 million in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation this year for school bus retrofits. This funding would serve as a down payment toward a much greener fleet with the help of new 2010 contracts.

The report further recommends that the New York City DOT and DOE apply for additional CMAQ or EPA funding over the next two years to bring the cost to New York City even lower. The executive summary and full report of "A Healthier Ride to School" can be found online at the EDF website:

Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit

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