By Chelsea Uphaus
We are all familiar with the big, yellow school bus. Right now, there are about 480,000 of them on American roads driving more than 25 million children to school every day. The school bus has a different meaning to each person that experiences it. For most, it’s a positive experience of getting kids to school and back to their homes. What often gets overlooked by parents and communities is the harm most of these buses are doing to our kids’ health.
According to the Diesel Technology Forum, 95 percent of U.S. school buses run on diesel fuel. That’s a huge majority of buses out there exposing kids and communities to dangerous chemicals, such as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and carbon dioxide — all which hurt our health.
The toxic emissions from older school buses impacts the community even more. It is our kids who suffer the most because their respiratory systems aren’t fully developed and have faster breathing rates, according to the American Lung Association. When my three children start riding the bus to school, I hope it’s on a cleaner bus than what is mostly available today.
There are a couple options available today: an electric school bus or school buses fueled by propane autogas. The Propane Education & Research Council reports more than one million students ride propane buses every day across the U.S. That number includes the Michigan students riding on one of about 600 propane buses in our state. Some of the school districts prioritizing a clean option for its students include Detroit Public Schools, Owosso Public Schools in Lansing and Wyoming Public Schools near Grand Rapids. These districts have found propane is not only reliable and safe, but their students are not exposed to harmful toxins.
Diesel engines are one of the worst offenders for emitting nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are so damaging to human health and the environment, they are regulated under federal air quality standards. Some of the health side effects of diesel include:
- Asthma, which is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism.
- Eye, nose and throat irritations
All of that tied to the soot leaching into the air at bus stops. If you had the research and funding, wouldn’t you choose the option that eliminates putting poison into our children’s bodies? Well, the good news is the research is available and so is the funding.
A 2019 Georgia State study says diesel school bus fumes drive down test scores. The study correlated increased academic performance when children were exposed to lower levels of school bus emissions. A 2019 West Virginia University study found propane school buses reduce NOx by at least 95 percent.
We all want the best for our kids. Wouldn’t you feel cheated knowing there is cleaner school transportation options not being used by most schools? I encourage you to take a look at your school districts’ school buses. If you see a green bird logo, you can rest easy knowing that your school district has chosen a clean transportation option for the next generation.
About the author: Chelsea Uphaus is the director of marketing for ROUSH CleanTech, an industry leader of alternative fuel vehicle technology. Uphaus is also a member of the Clean Fuels Michigan Board of Directors. To learn more, visit ROUSHcleantech.com.