DENVER — The dirtiest air your child may breath is likely right outside their school.
That is the finding of a study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center which examined air quality at bus drop-off spots near elementary schools.
The researchers found what many students might already suspect: Significantly higher amounts of emissions from idling buses and cars.
“The concentration of air pollutants near schools often significantly exceeds background levels in the community, particularly when idling school buses are present,” said Patrick Ryan, the Children’s researcher who was the lead author of the study.
Previous studies have shown that children who live near expressways and other sources of travel-related air pollution such as particles and soot are more likely to develop asthma or have the condition aggravated by such pollution.
Children are particularly susceptible to damage from pollution.
The research team looked at outdoor air quality at four Cincinnati Public elementary schools before and after the city introduced an anti-idling campaign.
“Anti-idling campaigns are frequently attempted to improve air quality, but until now, no one has evaluated how effective they are,” Ryan said.
Each of the four grade schools had student populations (as reported by parents) with asthma rates above 10 percent.
Ryan said the later tests (after the anti-idling campaign) showed soot levels dropped at two schools and the concentration of particles dropped by three.
Parents dropping off or picking up their children may think they are only idling for a brief time, but when you add up all the other parents’ vehicles with diesel from school buses, the air quality drops dramatically, Ryan said.
The solution is simple: Tell bus drivers and parents to turn off their cars when they wait.
Going forward, Ryan and others will look in depth at health data on students at the four schools. “We expect the asthma symptoms” will be improved, he said.