Belching Yellow Buses

at 11:35 PM

Imagine a world where children must sit at their school desks all day because the air is so bad they can't safely play outside. I remember days like that growing up near Los Angeles 30 years ago. Some days the air quality was so bad, I'd complain to my mom after soccer practice that my lungs stung.

Of course, we have air pollution in the Bay Area, too. We're reminded of it several days each year by Spare-the-Air alerts. But polluted air isn't just a problem on those days. Out-dated diesel engines on school buses and diesel trucks are a major source of dangerous ozone emissions every day. According to the EPA, ozone can irritate your eyes, nose and throat, cause shortness of breath, aggravate asthma and affect your whole cardiovascular system.

Exhaust from school buses poses a real threat to children.  Older diesel buses spew toxic fumes that children can't help but breathe while they wait at stops and ride to school. Some communities are making progress towards cleaner-burning city buses, but more needs to be done to make school buses safe, too.

Parents and schools can work with bus companies to reduce idling near schools and stops. Even better, they can encourage bus companies to apply for special EPA loans to retrofit old buses with pollution control technology. These retrofits can cut harmful emissions by up to 90 percent. That'll go a long way towards preventing the dangerous effects of air pollution.

The technology and the money are available if we act now. If we work together, future Bay Area children won't remember Spare-the-Air days and will grow-up in the kind of world they deserve.

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With a Perspective, this is Lizzie Velten.

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