Each day, the routine act of riding a school bus exposes children to a toxic mix of airborne carcinogens and particles from diesel exhaust. There's even evidence that fumes from the engine can create pollution levels inside a school bus that are 10 times greater than the outside air.
Diesel exhaust poses a significant health threat to everybody, but especially children. Diesel pollution in Connecticut is believed to be responsible for thousands of cases of respiratory problems - including 4,000 attacks of childhood asthma each year. That children's exposures are in part due to taking the school bus is an unacceptable irony. Fortunately, there's something Connecticut can do about it.
The General Assembly is considering a bill requiring the use of established technologies to reduce emissions for 3,400 school buses around the state - in some cases, by up to 85 percent - by 2010. Senate Bill 1032, "An Act Reducing Diesel Emissions in School Bus Cabins," is sensible legislation and well worth supporting.
Federal law requires diesel vehicles built from this year on to come already equipped with emissions filters. But diesel engines last a long time - decades, in fact - and the new federal requirement does nothing to address the emissions from thousands of vehicles that are already on the road.
Under the state bill, school buses built from 2003 to 2006 (the ones that will be on the road the longest) would be fitted with engine and tailpipe filters capable of reducing their emissions by 85 percent. Buses built from 1994 through 2002 would be retrofitted with less expensive "level 2" controls capable of cutting emissions by half.
The technology for reducing diesel emissions is established. The bill has aggressive and realistic price ceilings intended to drive down the purchase price of these technologies so that, with full state funding (estimated at $11 million), school buses from 1994 to 2006 will be cleaner.
Next to cleaning up dirty power plants, the federal Environmental Protection Agency identifies reducing diesel pollution as the single most cost-effective way to protect the public's health. Adopting legislation to reduce exposure to diesel emissions from school buses would be a good start.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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