Diesel engine emissions have serious effects on children's health. Children are both exposed at greater relative levels and are more susceptible to the health effects of diesel exhaust. Children breathe fifty percent more air per pound of body weight than adults, resulting in a greater exposure to airborn toxics. Behavioral differences, such as spending time on school buses, also increases their exposure. Also, because their respiratory systems have not fully formed and because of other delicate developmental changes during childhood, children are much more susceptible to the detrimental effects of exposure. Children raised in heavily polluted areas face the prospect of reduced lung capacity and prematurely aged lungs. Also, exposure to the particulate matter in emissions, especially fine particles, is associated with increased frequency of childhood illnesses. Approximately 4.5 million American children are afflicted with asthma.

Daily Exposure

About 25 million children rely on school buses as a means of transportation to and from school. Over 450,000 school buses travel the roads daily during the academic year. Nearly all of them are powered by diesel fuel. The emissions from these buses are a serious threat to the public and particularly to children. On average, students spend an hour and a half each weekday in a school bus. A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that the nation's school bus fleets are pollution threats to schoolchildren. In every state, children are needlessly exposed to air toxins. In addition, the California Air Resource Board announced that a child riding inside a diesel school bus may be exposed to four times more toxic diesel exhaust than someone standing or riding beside it. The exposure is 24 to 46 times higher than the exposure rate considered a "significant cancer risk" under U.S. EPA and federal guidelines.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, America's school bus fleet emits almost 95,000 tons of smog-forming pollution and over 3,000 tons of soot every year. Diesel exhaust from school buses can be significantly reduced with retrofit technology. A retrofitted bus is a cleaner school bus, as it is fitted with a device designed to reduce pollution and/or it uses cleaner fuels. There are many ways to retrofit a bus, ranging in technology and cost.

In addition to the exposure of riding in a school bus, many children are exposed to emissions from idling buses. The EPA approximates that buses idle from .5 to 1.5 hours daily. Diesel exhaust from idling school buses can accumulate on and around the bus and create health risks. The emissions also infiltrate the school building, posing a threat throughout the day. It is relatively simple to implement practices that reduce idling.

Adopt-A-Bus Program

Unfortunately, many school districts lack the funds to retrofit buses with emission-reducing technology. The Philadelphia Diesel Difference has established an Adopt-A-Bus program to replace the aging school buses with newer "clean fuel" or "clean diesel" buses. The program is a cooperative effort among government agencies, school districts, environmental advocates and corporate sponsors.

The Adopt-A-Bus Program gives businesses and community leaders a unique opportunity to:

  • Reduce the health risk to children
  • Speed the replacement of the oldest, most polluting, diesel buses by combining corporate donations with matching school district funds
  • Improve general air quality

Funding awarded through this program offsets a portion of a school district's costs to convert to a cleaner fleet.

By contributing to this program, businesses and organizations can earn recognition within a community and appreciation throughout the region. Depending on the amount of involvement, several levels of recognition areavailable to sponsors.