This is the time of year when kids head back to school. About 25 million kids ride the bus to and from school each day and experts estimate that 10 to 14 percent of all personal vehicle trips made during the peak morning commuting hours are taking kids to school. Increased traffic and idling vehicles create air pollutants that can aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions. Kids are more susceptible to health effects from poor air quality because their systems are not fully developed. They also spend more time engaged in high activity levels, which causes them to breathe more deeply.
Viewer Tip: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors outdoor air quality at schools around the country to look for air pollutants of concern and devise ways to improve air quality near schools, including reducing idling from school buses. If you drive your kids to school, you can help reduce traffic and improve air quality with these tips:
- Avoid idling. If you spend time waiting during drop-off and pick-up times, kill the engine. An idling car creates air pollutants...and gets zero miles per gallon of gas.
- Carpool. Team up with other parents in the neighborhood and take turns driving kids to school to cut down on morning traffic.
- Walk or bike. If the weather is nice and school is nearby, encourage your kids to walk or bike to school. If you are concerned about safety, help kids map out a safe route to school and make the trip with them. You can map a route using International Walk to School's Map-a-Route tool: http://maps.walkbiketoschool.org/.
(Sources: US EPA. “Clean School Bus USA.”; International Walk to School, “Community Benefits.”; U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, “It All Adds Up to Cleaner Air." Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Transportation.)